Moisture Out West Spreads to the South and Farther Inland

Posted: January 19, 2024 4:16 pm

The wet pattern across the West is expected to continue into the latter half of the month of January, eventually extending its reach into the Desert Southwest. Take a look at what is in store for the western U.S. in the coming days.

Another Wet Weekend for the Pacific Northwest

It has been a wet, snowy, and icy start to the new year across much of the Pacific Northwest. This moisture train is predicted to stretch deeper to the south through the end of the month, enveloping Southern California and the Southwest in the process. While the Northwest has seen its fair share of precipitation over the last few weeks, the moisture is good news for the parched Southwest.

Unfortunately for the Northwest, the moisture will remain socked in over this corner of the country heading into next week. The forecast models are calling for at least three more storm systems coming onshore from the Pacific Ocean to wrap up January. The first of these storms will fire up this weekend, bringing the bulk of the rain to California and Oregon while the higher elevations of the region experience more snowfall.

Seattle will dodge most of the heavy rain, however, Portland will not be as lucky. The Rose City is forecast to pick up about a quarter of an inch of rain Saturday night before adding another quarter of an inch on Sunday. This rain for Portland will be a continuation of the moisture that has been pounding the city since the beginning of January. Portland has recorded at least a trace of moisture for 16 of the first 18 days of the month, bringing the January total to over 5 inches. The good news is that warmer temperatures will mitigate the odds of freezing rain or ice for the metro area with this particular storm system.

Moisture Train Expands to the South Along West Coast

The zone of rain will extend down the Interstate 5 corridor throughout the weekend, sending the moisture into the San Francisco Bay Area. A couple of inches of rain will fall over the area over a period of a few days as more moisture comes onshore to deliver a thorough soaking.

The rain will then march farther inland across the Golden State beginning on Monday. For instance, after seeing just spotty showers over the weekend, Sacramento is forecast to see about a half of an inch of rain on Monday. The capital city will see high temperatures hovering in the upper 50s over the next several days thanks to the cloud cover.

The storm train will translate to snow for the Sierra Nevada and nearby mountain ranges. Although this is good news for the ski resorts around Lake Tahoe, the heavy snow will also likely snarl traffic across Donner Pass on Interstate 80. This heavily traveled mountain pass should expect at least a foot of new snow through next week

Soggy Forecast for Sunny Southern California

Unlike the previous storms that have impacted the West Coast in recent weeks, this weekend’s weather maker will make its way into the southern reaches of California. It has been an especially dry January for the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles but this will change as the storm system takes a more southerly track.

The majority of the rain is expected to fall late Saturday and through Monday, arriving in two separate waves. Los Angeles will wake up to light rain showers on Saturday, developing into a steadier rain later in the day. The city will pick up about a half of an inch during the day with another quarter of an inch in the forecast overnight. Sunday and Monday will bring much of the same when it comes to rainfall totals each day. It will be chilly with highs topping out in the upper 50s and low 60s and overnight temperatures dipping into the mid 50s.

Rare Rain for the Desert Southwest

This moisture will also spread into Arizona, translating to rain for Phoenix and Tucson while higher elevations such as Flagstaff pick up snow. The precipitation is expected to push into the Four Corners and Great Basin regions, parts of the country that are still grappling with some degree of drought conditions as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

How dry has it been in this region? Las Vegas has only picked up 21% of the historical average of rainfall since the beginning of fall. That may all change early this week when heavy rain is expected to fall across Sin City. While the rain will move in on Sunday, the heaviest bands of moisture will hold off until Monday. The cloud cover will have a cooling effect, keeping high temperatures in the mid 50s until at least Wednesday.

Phoenix will also get in on some of the rain action with over an inch in the forecast between Sunday and Tuesday. Like Las Vegas, it will be relatively cool with highs only hitting the low 60s during this time period.

As is typical, the top terrains of the Four Corners will be under the threat of snow. Light snow will push into Flagstaff by late Sunday, equating to about 2 inches by Monday morning. Accumulations of up to 3 inches are possible into Monday night. The city has only recorded 24.4 inches of snow this winter season, substantially below the historical average of 41 inches by this date in the calendar.

Looking ahead to the end of the week, the moisture will likely lift across much of California and the Southwest, ushering in drier and milder conditions. However, the rain will remain a constant over the Pacific Northwest.

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