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Weather to hamper holiday travel

While the Valley received more than a half-inch of rain overnight Friday and early Saturday, the sun managed to come out for the rest of the weekend. But the Valley is due for some more rain this weekend including a possible drenching on Sunday. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

While the Valley received more than a half-inch of rain overnight Friday and early Saturday, the sun managed to come out for the rest of the weekend. But the Valley is due for some more rain this weekend including a possible drenching on Sunday. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

By Don Frances Index-Tribune News Editor

There is a joke that says the best thing about winter in California is watching it on TV. For local residents, this Thanksgiving weekend may hold more storm-watching from the comforts of home – although forecasters are warning people to stay off the roads on Sunday afternoon due to a major rainstorm passing through at that time.

But the first warning goes to anyone planning a trip to Chicago, Boston or anywhere on the East Coast a day or two before Thanksgiving.

“You should already be in the air by now, if you want to get anywhere in the East,” said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

That’s because a huge cold-weather system promises to bury much of the northeastern United States on Tuesday and Wednesday. As of Monday, six to 10 inches of snow was expected in Boston, and four to seven inches in Chicago, along with cold air and gusty winds, Anderson said.

The disruption at major flight hubs alone will be enough to slow things down considerably, Anderson said.

“Be sure to pack extra patience for sure, it’s going be difficult traveling – massive delays, flight cancellations, the whole nine yards,” he said.

Back in Northern California, things will be considerably calmer leading up to Thanksgiving, with clear, cool and sunny weather predicted for Sonoma Valley. Temperatures are expected to be in the high-30s or low-40s at night and high-60s during the day.

The skies will start to cloud up by Thursday evening, however, and Anderson said the first of the weekend’s wet weather should hit by late Friday.

That won’t be too bad – but “the main cold front comes through (on) Sunday,” he said, along with the heaviest rain and harshest road conditions.

At that point, “Stay off the road,” Anderson advised, “it will be wet and slippery.”

Travel difficulties aside, no one in Sonoma County is complaining about the rain as the region continues to grapple with a several-year drought.

“So far, since July, you’ve had 2.2 inches of rainfall,” Anderson said Monday from the National Weather Service substation in Santa Cruz. At this point, the region “should be at 5.91 (inches), so still a ways behind. A lot of catching up to do.”

Still, things are better off than last year at this time, when only an inch-and-a-half had fallen at this point.

The big system coming this weekend should help, Anderson said, adding, “It’s hard to tell exactly the strength and how much rainfall (will come) this far out. But all indications are that it will be a fairly significant rain event, on the order of a couple of inches, at least.”

It could be followed by some freezing temperatures, he added, depending on how quickly the cloud cover disperses following Sunday’s storm.

Ideally, the rest of the winter storm season will resemble this Thanksgiving’s pattern, with “a couple storms per week on average. Sometimes less, sometimes more,” he said.