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Wet Winter Storm Sweeps Across California, Prompting Flood And Tornado Warnings

The latest in a series of wet winter storms gained strength in California early Monday, with forecasters warning of possible flooding, hail, strong winds and even brief tornadoes as the system moves south over the next few days.

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A potent winter storm intensified over California early Monday, signaling the arrival of another bout of wet weather in the region. Meteorologists issued warnings of potential flooding, hail, strong winds, and even brief tornadoes as the system tracks southward over the next few days.

In Oakland and San Jose, gusts exceeding 30 mph (48 kph) were recorded as a milder cold front transitioned into a more forceful storm on Sunday, according to Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in San Francisco. Murdock cautioned that winds were strengthening, with heavy rains expected to follow promptly.

Forecasters predict a risk of significant flooding along California's central coast, with rainfall projections of up to 5 inches (12 cm) in many areas. Some isolated regions, particularly the Santa Lucia and Santa Ynez mountain ranges, could experience rainfall totals of up to 10 inches (25 cm) as the storm progresses toward greater Los Angeles.

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The Sacramento weather service office warned of potential thunderstorms in valleys around the state capital on Monday, with associated risks including brief tornadoes, small hail, heavy rain, lightning, and gusty winds.

While not as lingering as the recent atmospheric river event that brought devastation to Southern California, this storm shares some characteristics, noted Murdock. It features a band of subtropical moisture trailing behind, though primarily manifests as a cold front.

However, this cold front is potent enough to pose significant challenges, including flash flooding and power outages, according to forecasters. Flood watches and warnings have been issued for coastal and mountainous regions across the state.

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Rainfall is anticipated even in mountainous areas, with several feet of snow possible at elevations above approximately 6,800 feet (2,070 meters) across the Sierra Nevada. Travel advisories urge motorists to avoid mountain routes, with the Reno weather service office recommending completion of Sierra travel by Sunday or rescheduling for later in the week.

In preparation for potential impacts, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services activated its operations center on Saturday and deployed personnel and equipment to areas most vulnerable to the storm's effects.

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