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Out West: Storms begin their assault on California

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Flood watch issued for much of southern California as intense duo of Pacific storms bears down on drought-stricken state.

Two massive low pressure systems approaching California from the west have prompted the National Weather Service to issue a variety of weather watches and warnings up and down the Golden State.

Wednesday evening, widespread showers with embedded areas of heavy rain and snow were moving onshore into northern California prompting the Weather Service in Sacramento to warn of possible flooding, hail, thunderstorms, and even an isolated tornado.

Radar data showed widespread rainfall with pockets of heavy rain from near Eureka in the north, to Lake Tahoe, and south to just north of Los Angeles. Snow was beginning to fall in the Sierra Nevada at elevations of about 5,000 ft and higher, where a winter storm watch was in effect, with a possible upgrade to warning status before Thursday morning.

In southern California a blanket flash flood watch was issued for almost the entire area from the Mexican border north to include Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego counties as well as western Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The first of two systems was anchored just off the northern California coast with a 996 millibar low Wednesday evening. A second low to the west of Los Angeles was forecast to intensify rapidly, approaching the coast near Monterrey, CA Saturday morning with heavy rain and snow across southern California on Friday into the weekend, and possible thunder and gusty winds.

Cumulative rainfall totals in southern California from both storms may reach upwards of 4-5 inches in some upslope foothill and mountain areas, with Los Angeles coastal and valley areas likely to receive anywhere from 2 to 4 inches. Southland mountain snowfall accumulations in the one to 1.5 foot range are expected at elevations of about 6 to 7 thousand ft.

By early Monday, skies should clear, with high pressure returning and a dry pattern setting up once again.