Mt. Laguna could get 2 feet of snow by early Thursday

A gusty storm out of the southwest Pacific will smother Mt. Laguna in 18 to 24 inches of snow by mid-morning Thursday and drop moderate rain across most of the rest of San Diego County, once again flooding city streets and culverts.

A winter storm warning is in effect for the mountains, including Palomar, which could receive 12 to 18 inches of snow overnight, the National Weather Service says. The warning lasts until 1 a.m. Friday.

Forecasters originally thought that the brunt of the storm would hit during the day on Thursday.

The latest forecast says that most of the snow and rain will fall between 9 .p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. on Thursday. Scattered rain and snow will last well into Thursday. And it appears that the snow level will drop to the 2,500- to 3,000-foot level on Thursday. Thunderstorms also are possible.

The system isn’t nearly as moist as the one that drenched San Diego County on Valentine’s Day. But it’s coming from the same direction — the southwest. That means that rainfall is likely to be heavier from the U.S.-Mexico border north to La Jolla, and off to the east, into the mountains.

Alpine and Ramona are expected to get up to 1.5 inches of rain. The precipitation will be in the 0.25 to 0.50 inch range in downtown San Diego. Rainfall will be significantly lower in north coastal San Diego County.

Forecasters say the winds will gust to 65 mph in the mountains, and to roughly 50 in Julian, which is expected to get 4 to 6 inches of snow. Winds will reach the 25 to 30 mph range at the coast.

Wild winds also are expected along Interstate 8, east of Alpine. Heavy snow also could affect traffic on the Grapevine and in the Cajon Pass.

“Plan on difficult travel conditions,” the weather service said in an advisory. “Tree branches could fall. Be prepared for significant reductions in visibility at times, and carry chains if driving through the mountains.”

The public also is advised to stay off the seaside bluffs in Del Mar, the site of numerous rock slides in recent months. The soil also is saturated in areas of Crest Canyon in Del Mar, and in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve near San Marcos.

The weather will remain cold through Thursday. San Diego’s daytime high will only reach about 55. Inland valleys will be in the low 50s.

Since the rainy season began on Oct. 1, San Diego International Airport has recorded 10.35 inches of rain, which is 3.75 inches above average. Oceanside Airport has recorded 12.21 inches, which is 3.77 inches above average.

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