The snow keeps flying across several parts of the western U.S. today, Dec. 5, and it will come down heavily in some areas. Meanwhile, other spots are more at risk for ice-covered roads. Then, a potent storm will slam California this weekend.
Drivers who have to go through high elevations of Utah, the Rockies of western Colorado, southern Wyoming, southeastern Idaho and northern New Mexico will run into snowfall today. Four to eight inches of total accumulation will be common, but up to 12 inches could pile up in the highest peaks of the La Sal and Abajo Mountains of southeastern Utah, as well as the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. These areas are south of I-70. Wind gusts reaching 35 mph will send snow on a horizontal trajectory in some spots, resulting in periods of near white-out conditions.
Several lower slopes will see light snow, freezing drizzle and icy conditions. This includes portions of I-80 and I-15 just north and west of Salt Lake City, in addition to southeastern Idaho.
Look for a mix of rain showers and snow showers in eastern Colorado and the Denver area. This storm should fade by sundown this evening as it moves toward the central Plains.
Other areas of snowfall today, Dec. 5
A batch of light to moderate snowfall will move eastward today across northern portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The snow will head to northern lower Michigan and western New York state tonight. It could make roads just slick enough to slow down drivers through places like International Falls, Marquette, Alpena, Ashland, Gaylord and Buffalo – cities that have already had their share of lake effect snowfall this week. However, delays should be short-term.
After a brief break in the weather today, a powerful storm is forecast to arrive in California on Friday evening, Dec. 6. This storm will continue through the weekend, producing another round of heavy, wet snow in the high Sierra Nevada and rain for the lower elevations. As snow levels fall late Saturday afternoon into Sunday, some snow accumulation is possible for northeastern California and adjacent foothills as well. A winter-like storm of this magnitude isn’t unusual for this part of the country in early December, but it typically causes travel and freight movement delays.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is initially predicting one to three feet of total snowfall in portions of the Sierra Nevada, including Mammoth Lakes, greater Lake Tahoe area (S. Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Stateline and Incline Village), Mt. Shasta, and around Lassen Volcanic National Park. Isolated spots could receive four feet. The NWS may adjust the outlook tonight or early tomorrow, Dec. 6.
Truckers will have the usual troubles on I-80 from Reno into eastern California, as well as US-395 and many state routes going over mountain passes. Roadblocks ranging from just a few hours to 24 hours are possible. Check the latest chain laws here for the latest updates on winter driving.
Heavy rain could flood some lower slopes and valleys in the region, leading to mudslides or even debris flows from wildfire burn scars. This includes areas just north of San Francisco, near Santa Rosa, where the Kincade Fire burned from late October into early November 2019. This storm should lose steam Sunday afternoon or evening, with only light snow and rain remaining at that point.
Have a great day, and be careful out there!