SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A winter storm could bring heavy snowfall and gusty winds to San Diego County mountain areas starting Tuesday night, which could impact travelers on Interstate 8 between Alpine and Imperial County, forecasters said Monday.
Snow could fall in the mountains beginning early Tuesday, when snow levels are expected to lower to altitudes of around 4,000 to 4,500 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest snowfall is expected Tuesday night and snow levels are expected to be around 2,000 to 2,500 feet through early Wednesday.
Up to eight inches of snow could accumulate in areas above 3,500 feet, up to 16 inches above 4,500 feet and more than two feet in areas above 7,000 feet, forecasters said. Winds of 25 to 40 miles per hour with gusts of around 75 mph are expected along desert mountain slopes.
"The combination of falling temperatures and strong winds will result in local wind chill values of zero to 10 degrees below zero late Tuesday night and early Wednesday, mainly above 6,500 feet," according to the NWS.
A winter storm warning is set to take effect at 10 a.m. Tuesday for mountain areas including Boulevard, Campo, Cuyamaca, Descanso, Julian, Mount Laguna, Pine Valley, Santa Ysabel and Warner Springs. Interstate 8 has three summits above 4,000 feet in East County.
"A winter storm warning for heavy snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring," according to the weather service statement. "Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous."
Forecasters said drivers should only travel in snowy mountain areas in an emergency. Blowing snow and dense fog could cause visibility to be reduced to near zero, especially Tuesday night.
Motorists on mountain roads, including Interstate 8 in East County, should prepare for hazardous conditions and were urged to check road conditions before embarking on their travels. The NWS also said drivers in mountain areas should carry tire chains along with extra food, clothing and an extra flashlight.
"This weather may be deadly for unprepared campers and hikers," the NWS warned. "Travelers through the mountains should be prepared for hazardous winter weather conditions."
A lesser winter weather advisory was issued for valley areas above 2,000 feet, including Alpine, Potrero and Santa Ysabel, that could get up to two inches of snow along with wind, thunderstorms and heavier showers.
"A winter weather advisory means that periods of snow will cause travel difficulties," the advisory said. "Be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibilities, and use caution while driving."
Rain and isolated thunderstorms with small hail are also expected elsewhere in the county Tuesday through early Wednesday. The cold front could also bring strong wind to the deserts and high surf along the coast.