Heads Up: El Niño Is Mounting a Rainy Comeback

Heads Up: El Niño Is Mounting a Rainy Comeback
File photo by Clinton Steeds/Flickr

February is normally our rainiest month.

This year it was L.A.'s hottest February on record in terms of the average high temperature (about 77.5), says the National Weather Service.

That's nearly 9 degrees above the 30-year normal, forecasters say. It was also the second-hottest February in history when it comes to overall average temperature (about 65).

That, of course, has many folks asking, what the hell happened to El Niño? After breathless predictions of a "Godzilla" winter of torrential precipitation, it's a fair question.

Here's one answer: It could be mounting a comeback.

NWS forecasters say as much as one inch of rain is possible as a weekend storm is expected to move into Los Angeles.

"Rain could be moderate to locally heavy at times, bringing the potential for urban roadway flooding as well as minor mud and debris flows in recent burn areas," the federal service said in a statement. "Additional showers will be possible behind the front Sunday night into Monday."

Whether this is the beginning of a series of long-expected El Niño–fueled storms is still an unanswered question, however. Some TV news forecasters say a series of fronts moving into Southern California is possible.

Stuart Seto, a weather specialist at the National Weather Service, says, "At this point we'll have to wait and see what happens."

An NWS statement says, "The extended weather outlook shows the possibility of additional storms and high surf events next week."

Sounds like this could be it — the late but much-anticipated appearance of El Niño–generated rain. The weather phenomenon is defined by unusually warm waters along the equatorial Pacific, which can push a southerly jet stream into SoCal's coast.

Seto says the weekend system will indeed be picking up moisture from "an atmospheric river coming all the way across the Pacific."

That's some telltale El Niño business. Plus, El Niño has done some of its best work in late winter and early spring. (Spring officially arrives March 20.)

However, we've been disappointed before. January opened with a one-two punch of El Niño–fueled storms, then such fronts were shut out of Southern California by warm-weather high-pressure systems (see February's record temps, above).

The weekend system is expected to arrive Saturday night, when there will be a 30 percent chance of rain, Seto said. 

Sunday will seen an 80 percent chance of rain, with precipitation tapering off overnight, he said.

Along with southwest winds, we could see snow in local mountains. "Snow levels will start out above 7,000 feet ahead of the cold front, but could lower to around 5,000 feet Sunday night into Monday," the NWS states.

"It looks pretty good," Seto said. "We got at least one good storm coming at us so far."

Heads Up: El Niño Is Mounting a Rainy Comeback (2)

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