The National Weather Service says a significant storm will bring between a quarter and a half-an-inch of rain to the valley and up to 2.5 inches of rain to the Sierra.
David Rowe with the weather service says there will be snow too.
"Probably about a foot to a foot and a half at the ski areas and maybe 2 to 3 inches down to about 4,500 feet," says Rowe.
Rowe says there are also flooding concerns in areas scarred by wildfire last summer -- for example the Rim Fire near Yosemite.
"When you get heavy rainfall intensity in a short amount of time, you tend to get mud and dust and debris left over from the fires last summer that'll accumulate and run downhill," he says.
Rowe says this will be a significant storm, but the region needs a series of these storms to start recovering from the drought. He says the forecast is dry again for the weekend and early next week.
Rowe urges valley commuters to use caution, especially Thursday morning, when the roads are likely to be slick, and says chains will likely be required in the Sierra.
The weather is about to change. Attached is the NOAA prediction for snow onI-80. Be prepared for winter driving. pic.twitter.com/kEvvfGXHAo— Caltrans District 3 (@D3PIO) January 28, 2014
January brought above-average rainfall and snow to much of California, partly due to El Niño. But forecasters say the ocean warming condition is "taking a break" for the next week or longer.
The U.S. Drought Monitor says, other than a slight reduction in exceptional drought in the northern Sierra, it needs more time to assess impacts of the recent moisture on California's long-term drought.
California regulators have made modest adjustments to water conservation requirements for cities.
The second measurement this winter of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was 130 percent of average. State water officials say the snowpack will help reservoir recovery.
California's water conservation rate dropped to 18 percent in December. But water regulators say the state continues to meet its long term goals.