A powerful storm system slid down the spine of California, pushing heavy rain through the Bay Area and Los Angeles before touching down in North San Diego County Wednesday afternoon.
Over the next three days, flash flooding, thunderstorms, and inches of snowfall were possible, creating hazardous driving conditions as millions of travelers tried to reach Thanksgiving holiday destinations.
The first sign of showers reached North County communities like Oceanside, Carlsbad and Julian just before 1 p.m. and continued to push southeast. Meanwhile, as other parts of San Diego County waited for the storm to hit, winds began to increase into the 20 mile-per-hour range.
During the storm’s three-day stint over the Southern California region, San Diego could see more than three inches of rain and up to six inches of snow, NBC 7 Meteorologist Sheena Parveen said.
The impact could be dangerous for drivers on what AAA predicts will be the busiest travel holiday in 14 years.
While Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times for travel all year, it’s also one of the deadliest, the California Highway Patrol warned. Officers was ramping up enforcement due to the winter weather.
“For those three days we will be in ‘Weather Alert’ around here, travel will be hazardous,” Parveen said in NBC 7’s First Alert Weather forecast. “Thanksgiving Day itself looks very messy travel-wise.”
Several watches and warnings were issued in anticipation of the forecasted winter weather. A Flash Flood Watch was in effect for the coast, inland valleys and foothills from Wednesday morning to Thursday evening. The mountains were under a Winter Storm Watch from late Tuesday to Friday evening.
During these times, rain could fall at a rate of a half-inch per hour, which has the potential to create isolated flash flooding in steep terrain and areas with poor drainage.
The most damaging rain was expected on Thursday. The NWS said the areas of Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Chula Vista, National City, San Diego Escondido, El Cajon, San Marcos, La Mesa, Santee, and Poway should be on alert.
Several locations were handing out free sandbags to help residents protect their property. In Chula Vista, people were lined up to use a machine known as a “sand bag hopper” to fill bags up with gravel.
Coastal flooding is also possible as higher-than-usual tides, commonly known as king tides, hit the shore through Thursday. Imperial Beach had signs posted warning residents to potential flooding.
Mountains as low as 3,000 feet could see a dusting of snow, while mountains above 4,000 feet could receive up to six inches, Parveen said. Ranges above 5,500 feet could get up to three feet of snow.
Drivers were urged to check mountain road conditions before heading out and to travel with an emergency supply kit. While no snow tire requirements were issued as of Monday, it was a possibility once the storm hits.
The California Highway Patrol reminded snow seekers that trespassing on private property to enjoy fresh snow is illegal.
The county isn’t expected to dry up until late Friday and some lingering showers and cold weather could stretch into the weekend. Drier conditions are expected next week, Parveen said.