Approaching cold storm could be "deadly" for unprepared hikers and campers in Riverside County

National Weather Service warns about approaching "sharply colder" weather

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The first winter storm of the season will bring much cooler temperatures, light rain and gusty winds throughout Riverside County Wednesday, along with a small amount of snow in the region's highest peaks, meteorologists said.

   ``This weather will be sharply colder than this past weekend and could be deadly for unprepared campers and hikers,''according to the National Weather Service.

   High temperatures in the region will be 15 to 25 degrees below average for the time of year, meaning they'll be in the mid-50s to mid-60s in the valleys, mid-30s to mid-50s in the mountains, the 60s in the upper deserts and in the 70s in the lower deserts, according to an NWS advisory.

   Rainfall from the system was expected to range from up to a third of an inch in the valleys to one and a quarter inch in the mountains. No rain was expected in the Coachella Valley.

   A high wind warning took effect early today for the mountains and Coachella Valley. The warning will remain in effect until 3 a.m. Thursday. A high wind warning is issued when winds capable of causing property damage are expected or occurring.

   The strongest winds will be near ridge tops and along desert slopes, according to the weather service, which forecast sustained winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour and gusts of up to 65 mph today.

   ``The winds will make driving difficult, especially for motorists with high profile vehicles,'' an NWS advisory said. ``Watch for broken tree limbs and downed power lines.''

   Mountain areas above 6,000 feet were also under a winter weather advisory today. The advisory, which takes effect at noon and expires at 10 p.m., means that periods of snow will make travel difficult. The NWS cautioned  travelers to prepare for slippery roads and limited visibility.

   Two to four inches of snow accumulation was likely above 6,000 feet this evening, and four to eight inches was possible above 7,000 feet, according to the weather service.

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