Weekend System to Finally Break California's Dry Spell, Blanket the Rockies, Then Bring Snow to Upper Midwest, Northeast

Brian Donegan
Published: January 5, 2019

The weather pattern has turned stormy along the West Coast this weekend as a new system moves ashore, providing much-needed rain and mountain snow for California. This system will spread wintry weather to parts of the Rockies, upper Midwest and Northeast into the upcoming week.

Happening Now

Significant snowfall is ongoing in the Sierra Nevada, impacting travel through passes, including Interstate 80 through Donner Pass, while snow showers are spreading through the Four Corners and into the northern and central Rockies. Moderate to heavy rain showers continue along the Pacific coast and into the Southwest.

A wind gust of 81 mph was recorded on Cooskie Mountain, or southwest of Eureka, California early Saturday afternoon.

Current Radar

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories have been issued from the Cascades down into northern California and the Sierra into early Monday. Winter storm warnings have also been issued for Arizona's Mogollon Rim, including the city of Flagstaff, through Sunday where travel is expected to be dangerous.

Winter weather advisories are in effect for some of the southern California mountains and throughout the Rockies.

In the Midwest, winter storm watches and warnings have been issued for Minnesota's arrowhead and far northern Wisconsin.

Winter Weather Alerts

Below is a closer look at the day-by-day details from this weekend into early next week.

(MORE: 5 Weather Questions About 2019


  • The storm system will move into the Four Corners region, where snow or a rain-and-snow mixture is possible.
  • Cities that might see snow include Salt Lake City and Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • By late Sunday or Sunday night, this system could start to spread snow or a rain-and-snow mixture into portions of the northern Plains.
  • A separate system will slide into California from the Pacific Ocean, spreading more rain and mountain snow into parts of the Pacific Northwest and Northern and Central California.

Sunday's Forecast


  • The storm system will move into the Midwest and Great Lakes regions, but any wintry precipitation will likely be confined to areas near the Canadian border due to a lack of cold air.
  • Parts of the upper Midwest, northern Great Lakes, upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania may see snow or a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
  • The system will slide into New England Monday night or early Tuesday.

Monday's Forecast


  • The best chance of snow or a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain will be from northern New York into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and the higher terrain of central Massachusetts.
  • Light rain or rain showers are expected from southern New England and westward into parts of the interior Northeast.
  • Snow may briefly mix in with the rain around the Boston metro area, but mainly rain is expected there.
  • Some light snow could linger in northern Maine Tuesday night.

Tuesday's Forecast

A separate weather system could bring additional areas of snow to portions of the interior Northeast on Wednesday, but it's too far out in time to be certain on the details.

How Much Rain and Snow?

The highest snowfall totals are expected in the Sierra Nevada, where more than a foot of snow is expected in the higher elevations. The highest peaks will pick up over 2 feet of snow.

Other parts of the Mountain West will likely pick up at least 6 inches of snow through Sunday.

Rainfall totals should range from 1 to 3 inches from Northern California to the Washington and Oregon coasts. Locally, more than 3 inches of rain is possible in parts of Northern California.

Rain amounts will be lower from Central into Southern California, generally an inch or less.

West: Rain and Snow Forecast

When this storm system moves into the upper Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast Sunday into early next week, snowfall totals are expected to be highest along the Canadian border.

Portions of northern Wisconsin, the Arrowhead of Minnesota and northern Michigan may pick up more than 6 inches of snow.

Snowfall totals of more than 6 inches are also possible from the Adirondacks of New York into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and parts of far northern Massachusetts.

Areas south of those mentioned above are expected to receive less than 6 inches of snow accumulation.

Upper Midwest, Northeast: Snow Forecast

Forecast changes are likely in the days ahead, so be sure to check back to weather.com for updates through the weekend.

California's Dry Spell

The rain and mountain snow in the West are good news overall considering most areas from California to southern Washington are in various degrees of drought.

Los Angeles hasn't received measurable rain in a month (2.11 inches Dec. 5-6). San Francisco's December rainfall reached 1.65 inches, or about 40 percent of average.

A California Department of Water Resources staffer conducts the first Phillips Station manual snow survey of 2019 on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
(California Department of Water Resources)

Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has fallen behind in recent weeks after an impressive early-season buildup. As of Thursday, snowpack was just 62 percent of average in the northern Sierra, 68 percent in the central Sierra and 70 percent in the southern Sierra.

The California Department of Water Resources conducted the first Phillips Station manual snow survey of 2019 on Thursday. It found 25.5 inches of snow depth and a snow-water equivalent of 9 inches – 80 percent of average for that location at this point in the season.

(MORE: California's First Snowpack Survey Shows Water Content is Below Average

Following this weekend's storm, the door could remain open for additional moisture-laden storms to move into the West Coast next week, but details are uncertain.

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