The second in a series of three El Nino-related storms was veering away from Southern California late Tuesday, but forecasters were predicting that the storm system could still bring showers, some coastal flooding and high surf.
The system had hovered off the California coast much of the day Tuesday and began to move southeast toward Mexico after nightfall, forecasters said.
"It'll certainly be less powerful" than Monday's storm, said John Erdman, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.
Breakers up to eight feet high were expected at some beaches in San Diego County, with moderately high surf predicted for beaches in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties.
A funnel cloud touched down briefly in Irvine earlier Tuesday, scattering construction materials "like toothpicks," but no major damage or injuries were reported.
A winter storm watch issued for the local mountains was canceled Tuesday evening. Snow began falling in the Lake Tahoe area of the High Sierra by midday Tuesday, and officials were hopeful that the series of storms would allow several ski resorts there to open this weekend.
The storm's threat appeared to be more powerful at midday Tuesday, when several funnel clouds were reported off the shores of Orange County.
At 12:45 p.m., a funnel cloud ripped through a construction site at the Irvine Spectrum entertainment complex, tossing about lumber and ripping up a chain-link fence that lashed back and forth like a bullwhip.
"It's pretty lucky no one got hurt," construction worker Dirk Thiessen said. "This is the closest thing to a tornado I've ever seen."
The first storm in the series swept through Southern California on Monday, dropping 0.51 of an inch of rain at the Los Angeles Civic Center and more than an inch in several foothill communities, including Altadena, Pasadena, Glendora and Northridge.
The second storm appeared poised to roll in after a brief lull. Forecasters said it could drop light rain across the Los Angeles Basin and up to a quarter-inch across the San Gabriel Mountains and in the mountains of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The leading edge of the third storm will probably start swinging into Southern California on Thursday night, meteorologists said.
"There's just a chance of showers from the third one, on Friday and maybe into Saturday morning," meteorologist John Sherwin said. "The rest of Saturday and all day Sunday should be mostly sunny and a little warmer--pretty great weekend weather."
None of the three north Pacific storms were generated by the burgeoning El Nino meteorological phenomenon, forecasters said. However, all three were funneled south of the normal Pacific Northwest storm track by high-altitude jet stream winds that are being deflected by El Nino.
Times staff writers Lorenza Munoz and David Reyes in Orange County contributed to this story.