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Heavy rain, high winds, cold air to hit Southern California

March 24, 2011 |  8:44 am

Rain
Heavy rain, high winds and frigid temperatures are expected to hit Southern California on Thursday as a new Pacific storm moves in, weather forecasters said.

The heaviest rain should occur Thursday afternoon in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, eventually spreading into Ventura and Los Angeles counties, said Bill Hoffer, a spokesman for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Between half an inch and 1 inch of rain is expected to fall across the coastal and valley areas, while the foothills and mountain regions could receive up to 2 inches, Hoffer said.

In the mountains and foothills, precipitation totals could be even higher on south- and southwest-facing slopes, he added.

At their peak, rainfall rates were expected to remain below half an inch per hour, but that could be enough to cause hazards such as slippery freeways and water accumulation and flooding in low-lying areas with insufficient drainage, Hoffer said.

Hoffer advised drivers to stay off roads during heavy rain, high winds and snow. If travel is absolutely necessary, motorists should take "a flashlight, food and water and even a blanket," Hoffer said.

Snow levels were expected to hover between 3,000 and 3,500 feet Thursday morning, rising to around 4,500 feet in the afternoon and between 5,000 and 6,000 feet by Thursday evening, according to the weather service.

Temperatures were expected to remain below seasonal norms through the weekend, with highs Thursday not exceeding the upper 50s, Hoffer said.

The weather service warned of high surf Friday along the Southern California coast, and a high-surf advisory was expected to go into effect from 2 a.m. Friday until 8 a.m. Saturday.

Another storm is on the horizon for Saturday, packing more rain and snow, but conditions are not expected to be as severe as on Thursday, Hoffer said.

A drying-and-warming trend is expected to move in early next week as high temperatures begin to build, according to the weather service.

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Thousands without power, motorists face lengthy commutes as storm hits region

-- Ann M. Simmons

Photo: A man looks out from under his umbrella during a rally in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Thursday's forecast calls for rain and cooler temperatures. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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