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Damaging winds, significant rain forecast for county on Tuesday

A powerful storm is heading toward San Diego county bringing rain, snow and even gale-force winds. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere looks at how communities are preparing for the winter weather.

A dynamic storm was forecast to generate strong winds and significant precipitation across San Diego County as it moves inland Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

Periods of moderate to heavy rain and snow were expected to move in from the northwest Tuesday morning and continue through the early evening before the system rapidly ejects to the east, forecasters said.

Periods of damaging winds were likely across the region Tuesday.

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Ample moisture and instability could produce very heavy rainfall, and even a few thunderstorms, resulting in periods of urban flooding and possible debris flows near and below recent burn scars as well as elsewhere on steep terrain. Current indications indicate a half-inch an hour Tuesday morning and afternoon.

Palm trees blow in the wind in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego County, Calif. Dec. 9, 2021.
Lara McCaffrey / KPBS
Palm trees blow in the wind in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego County, Calif. Dec. 9, 2021.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Tardy said the extra precipitation is a welcome relief for drought-ridden California.

“Now will this be enough as a drought-buster? Definitely not,” he said. “So after this storm, because we are expecting 1-2 inches of rain everywhere, that’ll put us right on track for where we should be this year.”

Rainfall totals could reach an inch over some parts of the high deserts as well, which can cause flooding where water is unable to drain properly on roadways.

Above 6,000 feet, heavy snow was possible, but the snow level will fluctuate and likely be above 7,000 feet until late Tuesday night, forecasters said.

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No hazardous marine conditions were expected through this morning, but southerly winds were predicted to increase today through Tuesday ahead of the storm, becoming west-northwest late Tuesday afternoon after a cold front passes. Wind gusts between 25 and 37 knots, combined seas of 8-10 feet, and rough seas were likely, producing conditions hazardous to small craft late today through early Wednesday.

Cal Fire San Diego Capt. Frank LoCoco said they have two swift water rescue teams on stand-by and people need to take this weather system seriously.

“When you couple that high level of precipitation with a strong wind, the potential for trees, even healthy trees being toppled over, power poles being toppled over, that increases, as well as the ground, gets saturated,” he said.

The potential for gale-force winds Tuesday afternoon and evening was increasing, and a gale watch was issued for 4 a.m. Tuesday through 4 a.m. Wednesday to cover the period of small craft and gale conditions.

At county beaches, a large fresh swell was forecast to produce elevated to high surf Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning. Rough, choppy surf of 4 to 7 feet was possible, with local sets as high as 8 to 9 feet in San Diego County. Surf was expected to lower through the day Wednesday.

Temperatures were expected to stay below average for the remainder of the week with another chance for some light precipitation late Thursday into Friday.