A major storm is heading north California promising to drop up to 10 feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada mountain peaks and much-needed rains throughout the region.
Rains were expected this weekend in the bay area, with snowfall in the Sierras from Sunday before intensifying between Monday and Tuesday, forecasters said. There might even be a blanket of snow on the mountain peaks in the Bay Area.
“If you live in the Sierra, today is the last day to prepare for a multi-day winter storm that will likely be remembered for years to come,” the National Weather Service warned in a forecast released Saturday.
Another storm system expected to hit California mid-week could provide nearly continuous snowfall, said Scott McGuire, a meteorologist in the Weather Service’s Reno office, which monitors an area straddling the Nevada state border. Downed trees and whiteout conditions could put motorists at risk; Meanwhile, the Sierra Avalanche Center has warned that heavy snow and strong winds over a weak snowpack could cause large and destructive avalanches.
“If you are traveling through the Sierra, get ahead of the storm before the snowfall starts or wait until the end to get there. It will be more and more treacherous, ”he said.
About 137 kilometers southeast of Seattle, a winter storm warning was in place until Sunday morning in an area where an avalanche on Saturday killed a 60-year-old man. Five others were rescued.
A low pressure from the Pacific Northwest was on course to hit coastal areas north of San Francisco on Saturday night and drop light rains. The heaviest precipitation is expected to fall from Sunday evening through Monday morning as the storm spreads east and south, said Sarah McCorkle, a meteorologist in the Bay Area Weather Service office.
Total precipitation in the north could vary between 5 and 15 centimeters (2 to 6 inches), and the greatest amount was expected in the Santa Cruz and Santa Lucia mountain ranges, where winds could exceed 80 kilometers per hour . The rain could cause minor flooding and landslides, especially in areas where forest fires have recently burned down, according to forecasts.
Pacific Gas & Electric said the storm could cause power outages in the Bay Area. The utility said in a press release that its workers cleared vegetation from power lines to reduce the risk of blackouts.
The amount of rain is typical for this time of year, McCorkle said, although the past two years have been unusually dry. The storm is expected to help ease the dry conditions, but will not mark the end of the drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.
The mega-drought fueled by climate change has affected much of the West. As California heads for what is traditionally its wettest time of the year, 80% of the state is classified as extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories.