Snow Covers Western US Mountains; Cold Snap to Follow
Parts of California are getting a White Christmas after all, with snowfall pounding mountains across the state.
Other areas of California, however, saw a wet and rainy Christmas as storms continue to drench the state, causing flash flooding and evacuations in some areas over the holiday period.
A 113-kilometer stretch of interstate highway over the top of the Sierra Nevada was closed Saturday when a storm that dropped nearly 60 centimeters of snow on some ski resorts around Lake Tahoe overnight got a second wind.
Interstate 80, which connects Reno, Nevada, to Sacramento, California, over the Sierra, was closed in both directions because of poor visibility from the Nevada-California state line to Colfax, California.
“The worst part of the storm is here, so expect long delays,” the California Highway Patrol in Truckee tweeted Saturday afternoon.
Friday night into Saturday, 50 centimeters of snow fell at Homewood on Tahoe’s west shore. About 30 centimeters was reported at Northstar near Truckee, California, and 25 centimeters at the Mount Rose ski resort on the southwest edge of Reno.
At Donner Pass in the Sierra, which is along the closed interstate, officials with the University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory speculated on Twitter if the recent snowfall would break the snowiest December record of 4.6 meters set in 1970.
There’s been at least 3 meters recorded so far this month, according to The Mercury News, with more expected in the next 72 hours.
The snowpack in the Sierra was at dangerously low levels after recent weeks of dry weather, but the state Department of Water Resources reported on Christmas Eve that the snowpack was between 114% and 137% of normal across the range with more snow expected.
The Los Angeles area is likely to see rain and mountain snow for the next week, according to the National Weather Service, with temperatures significantly below normal through the middle of the week.
The San Diego region should see scattered showers, with heavy snow in the San Bernardino and Riverside County mountains, with precipitation possibly going into Thursday.
The storms across the West, which could drop rain and snow over much of the region into next week and plunge the Pacific Northwest into a lengthy cold snap, an atmospheric river that delivered copious amounts of precipitation earlier this week.
The National Weather Service says the Seattle-Tacoma area is likely to see up to 7.6 centimeters of snow over the weekend. By early next week, the Seattle area will dip as low as -7.7 degrees Celsius, the lowest in several years. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, will drop to -20 C by Wednesday, and Portland will drop to the low 20s and high teens.
Rain and snow records broke in Nevada and state officials in Oregon declared an emergency ahead of the freezing temperatures, snow and ice.
Recent forecasts show at least an inch of snow is likely to fall Sunday in the Seattle and Portland regions, which don’t typically see snow.
But forecasters and state officials say the main concern is cold temperatures in the region, with daytime highs next week struggling to reach above freezing, that are likely to affect people experiencing homelessness and those without adequate access to heating.
In Arizona, a winter weather advisory remained in effect Saturday through the weekend in the upper elevations of the mountains north of the Grand Canyon near the Colorado line. But the wet weather that dumped record-breaking rain on Phoenix and Flagstaff on Friday was moving out of the area.
The 4.2 centimeters of rain that fell at the airport in Flagstaff on Friday shattered the old record of 2.2 centimeters set in 2019. The 2.5 centimeters that was recorded in Phoenix on Friday broke the old record of 2.4 centimeters in 1944.
It also was the wettest day for the city since February 22, 2020, when just more than 2.5 centimeters fell.