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The Weather in a Word--Try Nasty

December 16, 1987|STEVE HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

One place you might want to avoid today, if you can, is Los Angeles.

Forecasters say the metropolitan area could be plagued all day with thunderstorms, hail, strong winds, cold weather--and possibly a tornado or two.

"If you remember that storm a week ago Friday night, it'll be somewhat similar to that--but maybe a little stronger," said Mike Smith, president of WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

In fact, rain is a 90% possibility, ranking today, at least, right behind death and taxes on the list of things that are certain.

"Winds could be gusting up to about 50 m.p.h. and there's a 50-50 chance that funnel clouds may be observed," Smith said, adding that "when funnel clouds touch the ground, they become a tornado."

Actually, it may be difficult to view the sun anywhere in California today, with rain or snow, or both, forecast seemingly everywhere.

The principal villain, "a very strong and potentially dangerous Pacific storm," as the National Weather Service called it, was already whipping up 12-foot waves off the San Francisco coastline Tuesday night, with 14-footers expected today.

Meanwhile, there were 47-m.p.h. winds and tornado conditions in Santa Maria. And south of Bakersfield along Interstate 5 the weather service said winds hit 100 m.p.h.

"You can hardly walk outside," said Eleanor Revita, a waitress at a Denny's Restaurant in the Grapevine area. The eatery closed Tuesday night after the winds caused a power outage.

The California Highway Patrol said one truck was overturned in the area, but no one was injured.

Early Tuesday, the weather service had warned that the approaching storm could be the worst in years, but one of their meteorologists, Michael Lewis, downplayed that forecast later.

"I don't know if it will be the worst storm in years, but it will be cold, windy, with high surf," he said. "It's a winter storm."

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Public Works Department, which administers flood-control facilities, said: "We're ready for emergencies. We've drawn down our dams as far as we can."

Weather Data's Smith predicted showers lingering through tonight in Los Angeles, with the low-pressure system moving east after that.

The storm figured to swell the figures for an already wet year (4.69 inches, compared to 3.99 last season and a normal of 3.23).

The weather service said from one to two inches could fall in coastal areas. Up to four inches of rain could fall in the Southland mountains, with heavy snow expected in the higher resort areas.

Debris in Drains

Fire officials, meanwhile, were urging homeowners and merchants to clean debris from their roof gutters and drainage systems in anticipation of the storm.

Rainwater can easily accumulate, especially on commercial buildings, and cause large, flat roofs to collapse, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said.

In Compton recently, the roof of a toy warehouse partially collapsed because of rainwater accumulating during a storm.

San Diego expected to get hit today, too.

The weather service predicted that one to two inches of rain would fall on San Diego, and issued a heavy surf advisory for San Diego beaches. The weather service also announced small-craft advisories for the San Diego area and sent out an agricultural storm advisory, warning that 20 m.p.h. to 40 m.p.h. winds may affect crops and produce flooding.

Showers were also predicted for the northwestern part of the state as well as in San Francisco and Sacramento. As for air temperatures, the National Weather Service didn't need its hydrothermographer to tell it was pretty nippy in downtown Los Angeles--a good thing inasmuch as its hydrothermographer is broken.

"The sensors (on the measuring device) are on the fritz," said meteorologist George McKillop.

Estimated High, Low

However, the weather service estimated that temperatures reached a high of 57 and a low of 41 at the Civic Center on Tuesday. The high, if true, was 11 degrees below normal for the day.

The mercury began its nose-dive in Southern California over the weekend when a cold front blew in from Canada, generating wind gusts of up to 80 m.p.h. in San Bernardino County with 60 m.p.h. winds clocked in Orange County and the San Gabriel Mountains.

Winter storm warnings were in effect for most mountainous areas, with the snow level between 1,000 and 2,000 feet over northern California and between 3,000 and 4,000 feet over the southern Sierra Nevada and Southern California.

High temperatures have been below normal all over the state, with peak readings in the high deserts of Southern California in the mid 30s to mid 40s and lows in the mids 20s to lower 40s.

Also, it's not saying much, but Los Angeles was warmer Tuesday than Palm Springs in the southern desert, which had a high of 54.

If it was of any consolation, air quality was described as in the good to moderate range in the South Coast Air Basin on Tuesday.

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