An early winter storm will blast through the West this weekend
Allison Chinchar, CNN meteorologist
(CNN) — Much needed rain is finally coming to fire-ravaged western states, but it will come at a cost, with very strong winds leading the big weather system that will bring rain and snow.
Parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho are just a few of the areas under elevated fire weather risk Friday. And a more dangerous critical fire weather risk exists for over a third of Nevada on Friday.
Much of Nevada and portions of eastern California will see winds pick up Friday morning and continue through the afternoon, at times gusting up to 50 mph. This is a concern because gusty winds, dry conditions and low humidity levels increase fire danger.
Rain, snow, and a big temperature drop
Rain will be heaviest in the Pacific Northwest, where totals of 1 to 3 inches are expected. But certain locations could see over 4 inches of rain through the weekend.
There will also be snow, and quite a bit of it for the high elevations of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range. Most areas of the Sierra Nevada will see between 6 to 12 inches, but accumulation could reach up to 20 inches in some areas, especially above 7,000 feet.
Areas of the Rocky Mountains, particularly in Montana and Colorado, could also see over 1 foot of snow in the higher elevations through the weekend.
Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Boise will all see a dramatic shift in temperatures over the next 24 hours. These cities will go from high temperatures Friday that are at least 20 degrees above normal to temperatures that are 10 to 15 degrees below normal this weekend.
A record stretch of dry days
As of Thursday, Las Vegas had gone 199 days with no measurable rain. With no chance of rain in the forecast Friday, they will likely hit 200 before the rain moves in this weekend, crushing the previous record of 150 consecutive days in 1959.
“For a southwestern city which receives 30-50% of its annual rainfall during its summer monsoons, it is almost unheard of to avoid any precipitation during the summer months,” says Pedram Javaheri, a CNN meteorologist. “For context, the longest period Phoenix has observed without rainfall was only 160 consecutive days in 1972.”
Not having any measurable rain since April 20 in Las Vegas has also contributed to more than half of the state being under extreme drought conditions (level 3 out of 4).
They aren’t the only area dealing with drought conditions. Over 80% of Arizona is under extreme drought conditions. Phoenix has not had measurable rain since August 20, but that may change as rain chances, albeit low ones, are forecast starting Saturday.
Residents of downtown Los Angeles and Riverside, California, may have forgotten what rain looks like, since they haven’t had measurable rain since May 18 and April 12th, respectively. Both cities are forecast to receive some rain this weekend.