San Diego weather

Heavy Rain, Snow, Road Closures: Winter Storm No. 3 Sweeps San Diego County

A flash flood watch and winter weather advisory will remain in place Friday, according to the National Weather Service

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And then, there was rain. A lot of it. The third winter storm to pummel San Diego County in less than a week hit overnight, bringing heavy rain to the coast and inland, plus fresh snow to the mountains.

Heavy rainfall began to soak the northwestern part of the county at around 10:30 p.m. Thursday and continued overnight. As an atmospheric river moved in, the rest of the county got its share of rain.

Here's a look at the big storm -- the third in a week -- that hit San Diego County on Jan. 29, 2021.

“The ‘river’ has aligned itself parallel to the coast and will continue to slowly slide to the east as it pulls low-level moisture up from the south,” NBC 7 meteorologist Dagmar Midcap explained.

Midcap said this storm – the third in a series since last Saturday – would be milder than the windy storm system that thrashed the county on Monday, though there will be heavy rains and heavy rainfall rates.

NBC 7's Audra Stafford shares the latest details on the winter storm pummeling San Diego County on Jan. 29, 2021. She felt some sideways rain out in the field.

“This is a milder system than the last because of its central pacific sub-tropical origins but will still bring a chill in temps with southwesterly winds thankfully below watch or warning criteria,” Midcap explained.

Between 0.2 and 0.5 inches of rain per hour could fall across the county, Midcap said late Thursday night.

Photos: Heavy Rain, Snow, Road Closures: Winter Storm No. 3 Sweeps San Diego County

“We’re looking at 0.75 to over 1 inch to the west of the mountains,” she added. “The deserts will stay below about a tenth of an inch.”

There will be 6 to 12 inches of fresh snow at altitudes above 6,000 feet.

Bright and early Friday morning, NBC 7 Meteorologist Sheena Parveen said the rain was falling steadily across the county – and the pattern would continue throughout the mid-morning and day, so she said it's smart to keep the umbrella handy.

Even in San Diego, the sun can't always be shining, though it, too, made appearances on Friday in East County and North County -- along with rain, hail and snow, reports NBC 7's Lauren Coronado

“Take it slow on the roads,” Parveen added.

The heavy rainfall could lead to localized flooding, Parveen said. 

“We had over an inch of rain last night. We had hail a couple of days ago. Winter has suddenly arrived,” Jil Wiesner told NBC 7.

She’s not complaining. Neither were several other people who spoke to NBC 7 as they squeezed in a little outdoor exercise at Kit Carson Park in between storms Friday morning.

Road Closures

At around 4:40 a.m. Friday, the San Diego Department of Public Works tweeted that Spring Valley Quarry Road was closed between state Route 125 to Lakeview Road, due to the weather. This area is notorious for flooding during heavy storms.

Meanwhile, Sunrise Highway to Mount Laguna in the East County remains closed from state Route 79 to Mile Post 27.5, due to the rainy and snowy conditions.

Parveen said the weather was making for messy travel along San Diego's mountain roads and added, “I would not suggest driving around up there.”

At 6:45 a.m., San Diego County officials tweeted another road closure, this time in the Escondido area: Country Club Drive, just south of Harmony Grove Road, also due to flooding.

Here are some tips for driving safely in the rain, and how to avoid hydroplaning.

Friday's storm is causing wet roadways across San Diego County. NBC 7's Ashley Matthews shares tips on how to drive safely in the rain. She also explains what hydroplaning is and how drivers can avoid those dangers.

Flash Flood Watch

The National Weather Service issued a flash food watch for San Diego’s coast, inland valleys, and mountains that remains in effect through 4 p.m. Friday.

The NWS said the heaviest rainfall was expected early Friday morning. Rainfall rates, according to the NWS, are expected to be about a half-inch per hour.

At around 4 a.m. Friday, Parveen said an additional inch to 1.5 inches of rain was expected to fall throughout Friday. After the heavier morning dump, scattered showers would linger throughout the day across San Diego County.

NBC 7's Jackie Crea reports from North County where Thursday's storm was expected to hit first.

Flash flooding can lead to mud and rockslides, especially in recent burn scar areas, Midcap said.

“Stay away or be swept away,” the NWS’ flash flood watch warned. “Know your escape routes. Be ready to act immediately and heed all evacuation orders.”

What About Snow? A Winter Weather Advisory

Parveen said the rainfall and a wintry mix in the mountains (rain and snow) will continue into Friday, making the snow in that zone rather wet.

Midcap said some snow is expected at higher elevations of about 5,000 feet and above in San Diego’s mountains but added, “This is a much milder storm system – temperature-wise – than the last two systems.

For San Diego’s mountains above 5,000 feet, the NWS has issued a winter weather advisory, in effect from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. The NWS expected between 4 to 8 inches of snow above 5,000 feet of elevation. Midcap said 6 to 12 inches could be seen above 6,000 feet.

Travel on snow-covered, slick mountain roads will be challenging, with reduced visibility, so the NWS said extreme caution is necessary if driving in those impacted areas.

How Much Rain Has Fallen in San Diego During This Storm?

Rain (in inches):

  • Fallbrook: 1.41  
  • Carlsbad: 1.25
  • Escondido: 1.46
  • Santee: 1.42
  • El Cajon: 1.23
  • San Ysidro: 1.22
  • La Mesa: 1.22
  • Kearny Mesa: 1.29
  • Encinitas: 0.99
  • Poway: 0.86
  • Chula Vista: 0.98
  • Julian: 1.17
  • Big Black Mountain: 0.88
  • La Jolla: 0.80
  • Miramar: 0.98
  • Ramona: 0.88

Snow (in inches):

  • Big Bear Resorts: 10-14
  • Lake Arrowhead: 11-13

These numbers were provided by the National Weather Service for its 24-hour precipitation totals as of 8 p.m. on Jan. 29.

What Comes After This Storm?

Parveen and Midcap said the rain will begin to get lighter Friday afternoon before tapering off and drying out in the evening -- just in time for a dry weekend. Temps will stay cool and mild Saturday and Sunday across the county.

Parveen forecasted temps around 61 degrees along San Diego’s coast Saturday and in the mid-60s inland.

So, after three storms in less than a week in San Diego County, is this the last of the wet weather for a while?

Well, not completely.

Parveen said there’s a chance of another storm around mid-week next week.

For the latest NBC 7 First Alert Forecast updates, click here.

And, by the way, NBC's StormRanger is standing by in Southern California's inland empire, ready to track the storm as it makes its way into our region, giving us the most up to date information as we continue to track the winter weather.

Meteorologist Crystal Egger explains the link between ARs and extreme precipitation events across the Western U.S.
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