Another snowstorm is about to rear its ugly head in California, after some peaks in the northern Sierra Nevada received late season snow on Monday. But the first storm was just a tease. What’s coming tonight will be more powerful, as FreightWaves reported on Monday, likely leading to major travel impacts in the form of long delays and potential road closures. Here’s an update.
Monday’s snowfall faded today (Tuesday, March 26), but the next storm won’t waste much time getting here. The snowfall will start to pick up after midnight tonight (PDT), spreading across the entire Sierra Nevada range, and becoming much heavier and steadier on Wednesday. The greater Lake Tahoe area (South Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Mammoth Lakes) is also under the gun. The usual trouble spots over mountain passes – I-80, US-50, US-395 and CA-89, just to name a few – should be avoided, if possible. The storm will fade quite a bit Wednesday night, with some lingering snow showers on Thursday.
This storm could dump an additional 15 to 30 inches of snow above 5,000 feet in elevation, from western Plumas County to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Pockets of 40 inches are possible.
For eastern portions of Plumas and Sierra counties, including the cities of Portola and Susanville, look for totals accumulations of eight to 16 inches above 5,500 feet. This is for spots mainly west of US-395. Between 4,500 and 5,500 feet, accumulations of four to eight inches will be common, with up to two inches possible down to valley floors by Wednesday evening. Wind gusts in these areas could reach 50 mph.
The storm will also pack a punch from Yosemite National Park to Kings Canyon National Park. A hefty 12 to 24 inches will pile up in elevations above 7,000 feet, with localized totals of around three feet possible along the crest. Winds will be fierce here, too, gusting as high as 65 mph on exposed ridgetops and near the crest.
Coming from western Nevada into the Sierra Nevada won’t be a picnic, either. The greater Lake Tahoe area – Mammoth Lakes, South Lake Tahoe and Truckee – as well as Mono County, California will see snow accumulations of 12 to 24 inches above 7,000 feet. The highest totals, naturally, will be near the Sierra crest. Below 7,000 feet, accumulations will be less impressive, with up to four inches possible. The exception will be west of US-89 from Tahoe to Alpine County, in addition to points west of US-395 in Mono County, where totals of five to 10 inches will be the norm. Winds gusts in many peaks may reach 50 mph, but could be as dangerously strong as 100 mph on the Sierra ridge.
Periods of moderate to heavy snow expected over the mountains with snow accumulations around 1 to 3 feet; locally higher through early Thursday. Avoid mountain travel! #cawx pic.twitter.com/VrmBxXALd8
— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) March 26, 2019
Winter Storm Warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service (NWS), with updates available on this interactive map. Also, check chain laws here for the latest updates on winter driving, and look for more weather updates on the FreightWaves website. Road closures in California can be found here.
Other Travel Issues
While the heavy snow comes down in the high elevations of the Sierra Nevada on Wednesday, thunderstorms could produce heavy downpours in the lower slopes and foothills, in addition to the Central Valley from Redding to Fresno. This would likely slow down drivers on the I-5 corridor, as well as CA-99. Localized flash flooding could pop up, but large-scale areal flooding is not likely. Some storms may also produce hail and gusty winds.