‘Atmospheric river’ dumps heavy rain on West Coast before barreling east

February 15, 2019

Greg Grisolano


A potent “atmospheric river” is dumping massive amounts of precipitation on California. It is expected to bring with it snow, sleet and freezing rain to affect communities in the West, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic through Saturday.

“The big thing that will make weather headlines through the end of the week will be the ongoing atmospheric river event affecting California,” according to a release by the National Weather Service.

The surging storm system has dumped significant amounts of precipitation – in the form of heavy snow and torrential rains – along the Pacific Coast through Thursday. The weather service warns that the excessive rainfall on Thursday in the Southern California mountains brings with it a heightened risk of flash flooding and mudslides.

Higher elevations within the Sierra Nevada range are expected to receive upward of 3 feet of snowfall, with heavy snow forecast to carry on across the central and northern Rockies.

A strong storm system approaching the coast will have an anomalous surge of tropical moisture surging inland ahead of the cold front. Several inches of rainfall are expected across much of Southern California, with the highest totals for the coastal mountain ranges.

NWS has issued winter storm warnings, watches and winter weather advisories from the Sierra Nevada into the northern and central Rockies. Winter weather advisories are also in effect in the Midwest, from parts of central Nebraska to central Kansas and western Missouri, including Kansas City.

As it moves east, a strong cold front surging southward across the Plains is expected to bring with it a colder air mass from the Dakotas to Oklahoma. The weather service anticipates temperatures in the region to fall 10 to 20 degrees below normal on Friday. The low pressure system is expected to bring with it a band of light snow from the central plains to Kentucky through Friday night.

The Missouri Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Services issued a bulletin Thursday warning of potentially hazardous conditions along the Interstate 44 and U.S. Highway 60 corridors, and in the Kansas City metro area during morning rush hour Friday.

Drivers traveling the western miles of I-44 and those on U.S. 60 will see a mix of precipitation. The National Weather Service says to expect mostly sleet and snow with a bit of freezing rain and ice at times.

MoDOT estimates snow totals from 3 to 6 inches in the west and northwest, lower amounts of snow in the central, southern and eastern portions of the state. Travelers in the extreme southern portions of Missouri, south of U.S. 60, can expect some sleet and ice.


Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.