‘Strongest’ storm system in several weeks to hit Bay Area Thursday

The strongest storm system in several weeks will douse Bay Area commuters with rain and high winds on Thursday, followed by another week of cool, cloudy weather and scattered showers.

After a brief respite from showers on Wednesday, the brunt of the deluge will smack the region during peak commuting hours Thursday. A storm traveling south from the Pacific Northwest will unleash around 2.5 inches of rain and winds of up to 40 mph throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service.

“Folks should just be aware this will be a stronger system, and we could have some issues,” said meteorologist Roger Gass, ticking off minor flooding, slick roadways and blown-over trashcans as his chief concerns.

The storm will move into the area late Wednesday night, when wind gusts between 30 and 40 mph are expected to howl along the coastline, followed by moderate to heavy rainfall beginning early the next morning.

Originating off the coast of Alaska, the cold front will travel north to south and drop around 2.5 inches of rain over the North Bay and coastal ranges, with 1.5 inches over interior hills and between 1 and 1.5 inches in the rest of the region.

That’s enough to edge up seasonal rainfall totals — but not by much.

Most of the Bay Area’s cities, including Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, have yet to top 70 percent of typical rainfall since the start of October, according to NWS totals. San Jose has hit just 52 percent of its typical rainfall, while Livermore is at just 26 percent. Salinas and Concord have made the most headway, having reached 79 and 68 percent of typical totals so far this season.

A weaker storm system on Tuesday did little to boost those totals, with just a few hundredths of an inch counted throughout much of the South and East Bay as of early afternoon.

Although Thursday’s anticipated system represents the “strongest” storm in recent weeks, Gass said, the Bay will still be thirsting for more rain as winter drags on.

“It doesn’t appear to be a system that will drop, say, 3 or 4 inches of rain in Silicon Valley, so we won’t see those numbers dramatically jump up,” Gass said.

The cold front also prompted a winter storm warning for most of Thursday in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, from Yosemite National Park southward to near the Lake Isabella area.

Snowfall of up to 8 inches is expected in areas above 4,000 feet, while in the Bay, up to 3 inches of snow could fall on the highest peaks in the North Bay, East Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains.

After Thursday evening, showers will taper off and make way for a weekend of relief, bringing temperatures in the low to mid-60s and likely just scattered drizzles.

While a gentler, scattered rainy system is developing for early next week, Bay Area commuters ought to take heart: Thursday’s storm is the last expected to pack a punch. For now.

“All indications are that we’re not going to see any heavy rainfall next week,” Gass said.

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