The last and strongest in a week-long march of storms was pounding California with heavy rainfall, mountain snow and flooding Thursday that threatened to trigger mudslides in areas previously scarred by devastating wildfires.
The storms will then roll east, bringing heavy snow to parts of the Midwest barely recovered from up to 20 inches of snow last week, the National Weather Service forecast.
Before the storms exit the country, AccuWeather warns that parts of New England could be slammed with 40 inches of snow.
“The second of two storms this week will be a blockbuster in terms of impact and dangerous conditions,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
In Northern California, trees and power lines toppled in some areas deluged by up to five inches of rain in recent days. The scenic Pacific Coast Highway was closed overnight near Big Sur due to mudslides and flooding.
In Southern California, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said 19 vehicles crashed and 35 people suffered “minor to modest injuries” in a crash in fog near mountainous Cajon Pass.
“This is a life-threatening situation,” the weather service said of the storm’s rage.
Three feet of snow or more were forecast high in the Sierra Nevada, where blizzard warnings were in effect deep into Thursday, the weather service said.
Precipitation will begin to wind down by Thursday night and into Friday morning as the storm heads east. The heaviest snow Friday will hit South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, AccuWeather said.
“Those who are on the road through the heart of the snow and ice area will be at risk for becoming stranded for many hours,” Sosnowski said, adding that they “may have to face temperatures plummeting to dangerously low levels.”
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Then it’s on to the East, where AccuWeather said 40 inches is possible in parts of northern New England. Close to 30 inches of snow may fall on parts of central and northern New York state to perhaps the northern tier of Pennsylvania. Snowfall rates could reach 2-3 inches per hour.
Snowfall of 12-24 inches is likely to be more common in the heaviest band from the storm, AccuWeather forecast. But, blowing and drifting at the height and conclusion of the storm may cause the snow depth to vary by several feet.
“Plows are not likely to be able to keep up,” Sosnowski warned. “As the storm strengthens, winds will cause major blowing and drifting of snow.”