'Atmospheric river' with high winds and heavy rain ahead for Bay Area

An "atmospheric river," complete with heavy rain and high winds are expected to rip through the Bay Area region late Tuesday and pound down through Wednesday morning and beyond.

"It's going to be wet, rainy and pretty miserable," said KTVU meteorologist Rosemary Orozco, adding that the stormy weather will likely last through Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service said the heaviest rain will likely coincide with the Wednesday morning commute. Along with the rain, meteorologists also are predicting high winds, which have the potential to knock out power.

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Separately, scientists in California are introducing a scale to measure "atmospheric rivers," the weather phenomenon that can dump massive quantities of Pacific Ocean water on the U.S. West Coast, carrying it through the air from as far away as Hawaii.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego announced this week that the 1-through-5 scale will characterize the strength of atmospheric rivers from "weak" to "exceptional."

Under the system, an atmospheric river in January 2017 would have been category 4 - or "extreme" - because it persisted for 36 hours and produced up to 14 inches of rain in the Sierra Nevada.

Scripps says it's similar to scales that gauge hurricane, wind, or tornado intensity and could aid flood response and water management.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.