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Active weather continues and will lead to a strong winter storm late this week, snow likely

Posted at 6:15 AM, Feb 22, 2023

———Update 11AM ———
Meteorologist Vivian Rennie did a Facebook Live covering the latest on the storm. You can watch that here.

——— Previous Story———
Good Morning Central Coast! Buckle in, the next few days are going to be a bit complicated, weather-wise. We have everything from strong winds, to blizzard warnings through this week, the whole KSBY Weather team will be keeping a very close eye on the conditions and keeping you updated with the latest. Here is what we are looking at now.

The strong storm system that we have been monitoring as it transited south across the west coast finally arrived yesterday and just as was expected it brought very strong winds. Winds have already hit 50+mph for parts of the Central Coast. Wind advisories are in place into early Wednesday for most of the Central Coast. Along the Santa Barbara County South Coast winds are expected to be even more intense. There is a high wind warning in place for those locations through 6AM this morning. Winds can gust up to 65 or 70mph in this area.

Even after this advisory/warning window drops it will still be quite breezy to windy thru Wednesday.

Through the day highs will stay much cooler than we have seen recently, at the warmest part of the day many highs will only reach to the low 50s. Wind chill values will be about 10 degrees cooler.

This storm is due to the upper air pattern which has backed a huge trough from the U.S. West out toward the Pacific. This will allow air from the Canadian plains to enter California. This trough is also a powerful jetstream that will spin up instability as it lingers over California into the weekend.

Scattered showers (rain/mix/snow) are possible at any time but the activity will increase today. At first, the activity is very on and off but by Thursday into Friday, rainfall will become more widespread with thunderstorms possible due to the cold nature of this system. There is potential for some thunderstorms with this level of instability.

With these storms there are already reports (as of Wednesday Morning) of snow on the peaks north of Lake Cachuma.

This is a pretty rare system for the Central Coast. While snow is somewhat common in the Santa Barbara high country each winter season, it is far less common in SLO county. And snow levels of 1000-2000ft are very rare. There were some significant snow events in the late 80s which delivered snow to the Southern Salinas River Valley floor but other than that we've seen more flurry events than accumulating snow events.

In terms of snow totals, they will vary greatly. My forecast is that the interior valleys have a good chance of 1-3" of snow while the interior valleys could squeeze much more out from this system.

The lows from the northern Cuesta Grade into Paso Robles are right around freezing so any kind of accumulating snow is a tough call. But by 2000ft this looks a lot more likely. Regardless there are winter storm warnings and a winter weather advisory in place for those interior and higher elevation locations, and those advisories go Saturday.

A blizzard warning was added for Santa Barbara County mountains from 4a Friday to 4pm Saturday. Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories were added for much of the area not covered in other advisories until 1p Thursday. 2-4" of snow is possible with winds to 45mph. This is the first blizzard warning issued by NWS LA that they know of!

I should mention that rainfall rates will range from 0.50-1.0" per hour near the main frontal band on Friday bringing a threat of urban flooding and issues near recent burn scars.

The precipitation totals for the majority of the south Santa Barbara coast will be 2-4" and could be more than that.

For the Central Coast, the rainfall should be a little less in the .50-1.5" range.

\Grapevine travel could get dangerous Friday into Saturday with some significant snow potential there. Above 4k feet, we could start to see feet of snow accumulating with this more powerful part of the storm Friday.

Saturday could also be convective, in other words: t-storms (waterspouts or small tornadoes), rain, hail, and brief heavy showers. Snow levels will be higher at about 3k feet but that is still pretty low.

Looking into the extended forecast there doesn't seem to be much of a break. Once the winter storm Friday into Saturday clears there yet another cold front will descend into the region early next week bringing even more rain chances to the Central Coast for next week. The Climate Prediction Center's 8-14 day outlook also keep the region cold and wet through the first week of March.

While the storms may be inconvenient in the short term this will be more good news in terms of our drought conditions. All of the region is still under at least some stage of drought and the aquafers are still low despite heavy rains over the past few months. This additional rainfall will continue to help us out there.

Stay aware of this forecast going forward and have a great day Central Coast!