Christmas storm to bring drenching rain, heavy snow to inland region

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Cars make their way up rain-slicked Rancho California Road in Temecula during wet weather on Dec. 3. Will Fritz photo

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A Christmas storm could produce heavy rain and snow, forecasters said today, warning that travel through parts of the Inland Empire may be difficult.

According to the National Weather Service, a trough of low pressure hanging off the coast will overlay most of Southern California by Wednesday afternoon, ushering in significant precipitation comparable to what was seen on Thanksgiving.

During the overnight hours Wednesday into Thursday, rainfall is predicted to be intense in many locations, and as temperatures drop, so will snow levels.

“Snow levels will fall rapidly and reach the major passes on Thursday, which could result in some major travel impacts,” according to the weather service. “Rainfall will be rather heavy, at least for a few hours at lower elevations, including the lower deserts. Isolated thunderstorms are possible, mainly near the coast, which could enhance rainfall rates locally.”

Meteorologists said winds generated by the instability could gust over 40 mph in places, especially Thursday, as the last vestiges of the system spin eastward.

Wind warnings and flood watches may be posted on Christmas Day, according to the weather service.

In the Riverside metropolitan area, less than a quarter-inch of rainfall is forecast Wednesday – until the late-night hours, when storm cells rolling through the inland region will pick up energy, bringing intense bursts of precipitation.

Southwest Riverside County could receive three-quarters to an inch of rain Wednesday night and Thursday morning, while the Coachella Valley may be on the receiving end of 1 to 2 inches of rain, according to forecasters.

High temperatures in Riverside will hover in the low-to-mid 50s Wednesday and Thursday, with similar highs in the Temecula Valley and the mercury topping out around 60 in the Palm Springs area over the two-day period, according to the weather service.