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Winter Storm Drenches San Diego

A strong autumn storm hit the region today, bringing widespread downpours, strong winds and mountain snow while ushering in some typical rainy-day commuter chaos on local roads.

"This is going to be different from the weak systems we've been having," National Weather Service forecaster Noel Isla said this morning. "This is a good one."

Storms usually weaken by the time they reach the region, but this one is intensifying and making a "direct hit" on Southern California, which often gets only the tail end of inclement weather systems, Isla noted.

Over a 24-hour period ending at noon, the dark clouds dropped 1.36 inches of precipitation in the Cuyamaca area, 1.07 in Bonita, 1.06 in Julian, 0.99 at Brown Field, 0.87 in Agua Caliente, 0.71 at Lindbergh Field, 0.65 in Kearny Mesa, 0.62 in Ramona, 0.55 at Rincon Springs, 0.42 in Encinitas and 0.4 in Poway, the NWS reported.

In all, the cloudbursts could drop up to two inches of rain in the some of the county's coastal areas and two to four inches in the East County mountains, with snow from the highest peaks down to altitudes around 4,500 feet, according to meteorologists.

The showers had immediate and all-too-predictable impacts on local traffic. Between midnight and 10 a.m., the California Highway Patrol logged 121 accidents in the San Diego area, as compared with the 50-75 collisions the agency typically responds to during an entire day of dry weather.

The winds generated by the storm will be strongest this afternoon, according to the weather service, which forecast gusts up to 55 mph along the coast, 50 mph in the valleys, 60 mph in the mountains and 70 mph in the deserts.

The NWS scheduled a high wind warning from 3 p.m. to midnight in coastal and valley areas, and from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesday in the mountains and deserts. A flash flood watch was also scheduled to be in effect in the mountains from noon to this evening.

Due to pollution hazards from runoff, the county Department of Environmental Health issued a routine ocean-contamination warning, advising people to stay out of the surf for at least 72 hours following showers.

The storm will move out of the area Tuesday, according to the weather service. More rainfall could arrive Thursday or Friday, the federal agency reported.

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