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Weather forecasters predict wet and windy weekend

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Posted: Friday, December 13, 2002 10:00 pm

The next week will be a good one to spend indoors, although you might tentatively plan for outdoor activity Wednesday.

"You're going to get enough water to swim in," Ken Clark, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said Friday as the first of three storms pounded its way into California.

Lodi collected 0.80 inches of rain as of 5 p.m. Friday, but that's nothing compared to the rest of the weekend.

The latest forecast calls for rain and wind today, rain again Sunday and heavy rain and strong winds Monday.

Driving conditions are expected to be downright miserable, Clark said.

"(Today is) going to be a great day for shopping inside," he said.

Friday's rain brought a flurry of accidents, with several of them concentrated on Interstate 5 in the Flag City and Thornton areas.

"Motorists are driving way over their heads in inclement weather," California Highway Patrol spokesman Ted Montez said. "They should slow down, be patient and, most importantly, wear their seatbelts."

The CHP reported at least three accidents at I-5 near Highway 12, and two more north of Thornton on I-5 near Twin Cities Road.

The most severe accident took place in the Flag City area at 12:30 p.m., when a woman suffered major head injuries after she lost control of her car and collided with a big-rig truck, Montez said.

The woman was pinned in her car and had to be extricated before being air-lifted to San Joaquin County Hospital. Her identity and condition were not released.

In the Sierra Nevada, officials at Bear Valley Ski Resort on Highway 4 east of Murphys plan to open for the season today, but good luck getting there.

"I would not be venturing into the Sierra this weekend," he said. "It's not going to be a fun drive."

The snow level today will be 7,000 feet, so that won't be a problem, Clark said, but the rain and wind will wreak havoc.

Friday's storm and the smattering of rain earlier this week constituted the first storm to hit the Lodi-Galt area since the second week in November.

Lodi got more than 2 inches of rain over a four-day period in November, with the foothills getting 6 to 12 inches. Another 3 inches are expected between Friday and Monday, Clark said. And prepare for nasty wind today.

"We're going into a stormy weather pattern for a week or more," he said, comparing the storms to airplanes lined up to land at an airport.

"Each storm is going to be progressively colder, too," he said.

The second storm is expected late Sunday and continue into a blustery day Monday. Showers are expected Tuesday and the only dry day could fall on Wednesday, Clark said. The third storm - probably Thursday and Friday, could bring snow to as low as 2,000 or 3,000 feet, he said.

But today, it's going to be rain, even at Lake Tahoe. Tonight, the snow level will drop to about 5,500 feet, bringing snow to the Tahoe basin. Winds will be 20 to 40 mph in the Tahoe basin, but they could reach 55 to 60 mph at top of the ski lifts, Clark said. The snow level could go down to 4,000 feet by Monday.

And for those who think they can avoid the storms by going to Southern California - think again.

This weekend's storm will hit the entire San Joaquin Valley and may bring some light rain to the Los Angeles basin, Clark said, but the second and third storms - beginning Sunday night - will saturate the whole state.

In addition to the 3 inches expected to hit the Valley through Monday, Clark predicts 7 to 8 inches of rain for the foothills and at least a foot in the higher elevations.

On Friday, chains were required on all vehicles except those with four-wheel drive with snow tires from 6.3 miles east of Ham's Station on Highway 88 in Amador County to 5 miles west of Picketts Junction in Alpine County, the California Department of Transportation said.

On Interstate 80, there was a strong wind advisory on the Yolo Causeway.

Highway 4 at Ebbets Pass, Highway 108 at Sonora Pass and Highway 88 at Carson Pass have closed for the winter.

California is in "a moderate El Nino year," which means some downpours interspersed with dry weather, Clark said.

"I think we're going to see episodes like this on occasions throughout the winter," he said. "We're going to have a pretty wet winter."

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