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Storms To Bring Winter Wonderland To San Diego Mountains

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Aired 2/16/11

Forecasters say a series of storms will keep San Diego wet, windy and cold through Sunday. Local mountains are expected to turn into a winter wonderland.

Sunrise Highway, winding up Mt. Laguna is blanketed with snow on January 6, 2008.
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Above: Sunrise Highway, winding up Mt. Laguna is blanketed with snow on January 6, 2008.

San Diego’s dry spell has come to end. The first of two low pressure systems arrived today, bringing gusty winds and rain around San Diego County. National Weather Service forecasters say a second system on Friday could pack a bigger and colder punch, and turn San Diego’s mountains into a winter wonderland.

This unsettled pattern represents the second major system to hit the region this winter, leading some to question the La Niña forecast.

Tim Barnett, a research marine physicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the majority of La Niñas bring dry conditions to the Southwest.

“But of course that’s not what’s happened," Barnett explained. "The whole system seems to be shifted to the south by some hundreds of miles. What we expected to find in Washington and Montana, we’re getting in Utah and parts of Arizona. We’re getting the heavy snow that we anticipated, the trouble is they’re just a little south.”

Forecasters say San Diego’s mountains could get a foot of snow this week in the highest elevations. Mount Laguna Lodge owner Tom McWay said he’s bracing for a busy holiday weekend.

“It gets a little chaotic 'cause a lot of people don’t have chains and don’t know how to drive, and they’re going places they shouldn’t be going. But it’s worth it, it’s all fun.”

McWay said with the snow and holiday weekend, he expects his lodge will fill up fast.

National Weather Service forecaster Michael Watkins said rainfall amounts will range from about a quarter to three-quarters of an inch along the coast and inland, and up to 1 to 2 inches in the mountains today. He said snow levels are expected to lower to 4,000 feet by tonight.

A wind advisory is scheduled for the mountain areas from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Weather Service advised that south winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph, would shift to southwest to west winds of 25-35 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph as the day goes on.

According to the Weather Service, a break in the storm will occur on Thursday before another low pressure system moves in on Friday. The second storm could bring significant widespread rain and mountain snow Friday night and Saturday, with scattered showers into Sunday, the agency advised.

The highest tides of the season, known as "king tides," are also expected in San Diego this week. The ocean surge is expected to start today and peak on Thursday morning. Forecasters warned the combination with rain could lead to coastal flooding.

City News Service contributed to the information in this report.

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