El Niño Storms to Bring Much-Needed Rain, Snow to SoCal This Weekend

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Just as many appeared ready to write off El Niño in Southern California, a strong winter storm was expected to bring "significant" rain to the drought-parched region and some much-needed snow to mountain areas this weekend.

The 5 Freeway in the Grapevine near Gorman reopened Feb. 1, 2016, after the California Highway Patrol closed it because of low visibility and icy road conditions. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The 5 Freeway in the Grapevine near Gorman reopened Feb. 1, 2016, after the California Highway Patrol closed it because of low visibility and icy road conditions. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The storm could bring light rain during daytime hours on Saturday, but short bursts of moderate-to-heavy rain likely won't begun until after sunset, when the first of two storm systems approaches, according to the National Weather Service.

Impacts from the first, weaker system were expected to be minimal, with snow levels remaining above 8,000 feet and only a small risk of mud and debris flows near burn areas.

The second system -- expected to arrive by Sunday night and last into Monday -- will likely be stronger, bringing heavy rain with the potential to trigger mudslides in burn areas, according to forecasters. Small hail and gusty winds were also possible during the period of stormy weather.

Rain could impact Monday morning rush-hour commute, the weather service warned.

Snow levels were expected to lower to 4,000 feet by Monday, which could affect the I-5 near the Grapevine in the afternoon and evening hours, forecasters predicted.

Mountain areas could also be hit with winter weather conditions, such as heavy snow and strong winds, according to the weather service.

A more powerful storm was expected to bring upwards of 3 feet of snow to the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe areas this weekend, which is good news for California's snowpack, meteorologist Tony Fuentes of the weather service told the Los Angeles Times.

“Any snow is good,” he said. “Anything that we get now is beneficial.”

The last measure of the state's snowpack levels showed it to be somewhere between average and slightly above average after a dry February, Fuentes told the newspaper.

For Los Angeles, the month marked the second-hottest February on record, and prompted concerns that the once-predicted "Godzilla" El Niño was a bust.

Prior to last month's dry, summer-like conditions, the state's water-supplying snowpack had started off strong, hovering above average as the year began, according to Fuentes.

But by March 1, the snowpack dropped to 83 percent average, California water officials said on Tuesday.

“Mother Nature is not living up to predictions by some that a ‘Godzilla’ El Niño would produce much more precipitation than usual this winter,” Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin stated in a news release. “We need conservation as much as ever.”

The latest readings also suggested El Niño storms will not bring an end the state's yearslong drought without a “March Miracle,” as occurred in 1991 and 1995, according to the department.