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Southland storm begins on an uneven note

L.A. experiences light rain compared with Orange and San Diego counties. On Saturday, expect strong winds.

February 06, 2010|By Ann M. Simmons

The second of two cold fronts to sweep Southern California will hit the Los Angeles area Saturday, bringing rain, possible thunderstorms and the threat of mud and debris flows in hillside areas scorched by last year's wildfires, according to the National Weather Service.

Rains on Friday snarled traffic and prompted road closures in foothill communities bordering the Angeles National Forest, where more than 160,000 acres remain charred from the Station fire. Los Angeles County saw relatively light rain, but Orange and San Diego counties experienced heavy thunderstorms and 45-mph wind gusts along the coast.

Forecasters predict up to 1 1/2 inches of rainfall across the coastal and valley areas with as much as 3 1/2 inches in the foothills and mountains.

A flash-flood watch was put in effect for portions of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties on Friday, and it will remain in place through Saturday, according to Jamie Meier, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Mountain resort areas can expect 12 to 20 inches of snow at levels of 6,000 to 7,000 feet, dropping on Saturday to about 4,500 to 5,000 feet, just below the Grapevine on Interstate 5, Meier said.

It should also be quite windy, with mountain regions experiencing 20- to 30-mph winds and gusts up to 55 mph, Meier said.

Temperatures were not expected to rise above the low 60s, with overnight lows in the lower 50s through the weekend, she said. Another rainstorm could dampen Los Angeles County on Tuesday and Wednesday, Meier said. If it materializes as predicted, that storm is expected to bring less than an inch of rain to the county.

L.A. County's environmental health division is advising people to stay out of the ocean along the coast until three days after the rain stops because of the possibility that storm runoff could bring disease-carrying bacteria into the water.

Strong El Niño conditions expected to last through the spring could contribute to above-average rainfall in the southern United States, according to forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Though forecasters can't attribute particular storms directly to El Niño, the recent wet weather in the Southland fits the typical pattern for the climatic phenomenon, Meier said.

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