SAN DIEGO -- The leading edge of a strong winter storm moved over the San Diego area Monday, bringing scattered light showers in advance of heavier rains forecast to peak during the Tuesday morning commute.
The unsettled atmospheric system, which is expected to deliver the first significant local precipitation in months, will strengthen Monday night and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
As of late Monday afternoon, the dark clouds had dropped a few hundredths of an inch in various locales across the county. The highest amount at 4 p.m. was one-tenth of an inch in the Birch Hill area, near Palomar Mountain.
In total, the storm is expected to shed about 0.9 of an inch of rain over the city of San Diego, 1.23 inches in Oceanside and 1.47 in Escondido before weakening and dissipating late Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the NWS reported..
A winter-storm watch and high-wind watch will be in effect in mountain areas through late Tuesday night.
Snow levels were expected to remain above 8,000 feet throughout much of Southern California tonight -- higher than the San Diego area's highest peaks -- but likely will drop rapidly to 5,000 feet by Tuesday afternoon, making influxes of frozen white flakes possible in some local mountain spots, meteorologists predicted.
Strong winds are in the forecast late tonight through Tuesday, with potential gusts on from 55 to 75 mph along desert slopes and below mountain passes, according to the weather service. The gusts could adversely impact travelers in San Diego County along Interstates 8 and 15, as well as Old Highway 395, authorities said.
Motorists are likely to face a challenging commute Tuesday morning, contending with heavy rain, isolated thunderstorms, strong winds and poor visibility, the NWS advised.
Urban areas of San Diego County were expected to be spared the worst of the storm, while flash-flood warnings were issued for Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.