By Paul Rogers
Posted: 02/22/2014 04:09:15 PM PST
Updated: 02/22/2014 07:20:33 PM PST

Here’s something you haven’t heard much around California during the past 14 months: Get out your umbrellas.

Forecasters say significant rain is in the future — both this week and possibly next winter, with computer models showing promising signs of an El Niño, the phenomenon when Pacific Ocean waters warm up, often bringing wet winters to California.

It’s a double dose of positive news for the drought-stricken state. While predicting weather too far into future is still unreliable, this week’s storm system charging in from the Pacific Ocean is a safer bet: The storm is expected to hit the Bay Area on Wednesday afternoon, bringing up to four days of steady rain that meteorologists say should provide a desperately needed soaking.

“It’s pretty promising. All the computer models are in agreement, and that’s a really good sign,” said Duane Dykema, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey. “It looks like we’ll get a series of storms with widespread rainfall.”

Rainfall should vary from 2 to 5 inches across much of the Bay Area and the rest of the state, he said, with 2 to 3 feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevada.

And unlike the last significant rainfall, on Feb. 7-9, this storm is shaping up to be much more of a classic winter event, with winds up to 50 mph, power outages and some potential flash flooding. Gusty winds will be most severe on Friday.

Radar images and computer models show this storm hitting nearly all of California, unlike the last storm, which was a narrow “Pineapple Express” from Hawaii that drenched Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, but left most Bay Area cities south of San Francisco with barely any reason to flip on the windshield wipers.

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