Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:59 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
A large and very powerful Pacific storm is poised to hammer California this weekend, bringing blizzard conditions and sustained winds over hurricane force to the Sierra Mountains. The mighty storm, currently about 1000 miles west of the state of Washington, is intensifying rapidly today. As the system approaches the coast of Washington State on Friday afternoon, its pressure is expected to bottom out at 960 mb--a pressure similar to that of a Category 2 hurricane. High winds will buffet all of California Friday and Saturday, with sustained winds of hurricane force and gusts of 145 mph expected along the high ridge tops of the Sierra Mountains. Blizzard conditions will envelop much of the Sierras, with 2-5 feet of snow likely to fall by Saturday. Snowfall rates up to six inches per hour are expected. Travel will be difficult or impossible in the northern mountains of California Friday and Saturday.
Figure 1. A massive winter storm (left side of image) prepares to hammer the U.S. West Coast on Friday and Saturday. A second, weaker storm is affecting the coast today.
In Southern California, the concern is heavy rain and flooding. Rainfall rates of up to an inch per hour are expected in the mountains, with total rain amounts of up to 10 inches expected in the south facing mountains. Landslides and debris flows are likely on the hillsides burned by the recent fires. Strong, damaging winds are expected over much of Southern California, as well. High winds over the the ocean will bring swells of 6-10 feet to the coast and 20 foot seas offshore, and isolated thunderstorms could spawn waterspouts. The storm responsible for the wild weather will weaken and move ashore on Saturday over British Columbia, but will still be strong enough to bring additional heavy rains, high winds, and mountain snows to California through Sunday.
It's cold in Florida! Snow flurries were reported along the east central coast of the state this morning, near Daytona Beach and Cocoa. It was the first snow seen in the region since 2003.The cold air behind the cold front responsible for the freeze was pushed by an unusually strong high pressure system. Tallahassee, Florida reported a new atmospheric pressure record at 11 am today: 30.77 inches (1042 mb). The previous record was 30.74 inches (1041 mb) which occurred on January 4th 1979 and again on February 5th 1996. Record low temperature records were set in Fort Myers (32° F), Miami Beach (40° F) and Key West (45° F) this morning, and citrus growers worked hard to keep their orange crops from freezing.
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