Meteorologists are predicting the most significant snowstorm of the season for Northern California, set to bring heavy snowfall and challenging travel conditions to the Sierra Nevada region over the weekend.
In the Sierra, forecasters from the Weather Prediction Center anticipate snowfall of 1 to 2 feet above 3,000 feet in elevation from Saturday morning into Sunday morning. While snow may fall as low as 2,000 feet, the heaviest amounts are expected above 6,000 feet. Snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour are possible during the most intense snowfall periods, with wind gusts reaching up to 55 mph.
Further north in the Cascades, including the Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen areas, impacts are projected to be less severe, with lower snowfall totals. Though chain controls are still expected in areas of Mount Shasta, including Interstate 5 and Highway 89.
The National Weather Service has issued travel advisories and warnings for the region, emphasizing the certainty of travel disruptions on Saturday. Long delays are anticipated, and travelers are advised to reschedule their plans if possible.
The National Weather Service issued a stern warning, stating, “Difficult to impossible travel is possible in the Sierra. Change your plans if possible.”
Hazardous Mountain Travel is expected with today's weather system as heavy snow develops throughout the morning. If you must travel, please take extra precautions such as traveling with an flashlight and bringing extra food and water in case of emergencies! #CAwx pic.twitter.com/tvUcSeBGEM— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) January 6, 2024
Winter storm warnings, more severe than advisories, have been issued for the Tahoe Basin from 7 a.m. Saturday through 10 a.m. Sunday. Snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches are possible for Lake Tahoe communities, with higher elevations expecting up to 10 to 24 inches of snow.
Yosemite Valley is also under a winter storm warning from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday, with snow accumulations projected to reach up to 10 inches at elevations above 4,000 feet and 12 to 18 inches above 6,000 feet.
The system is forecasted to usher in colder air, causing temperatures across the Sierra to drop into the teens on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, and again on Sunday night into Monday morning. Road impacts are highly likely, including the possibility of closures and chain controls on stretches of interstates 80 and 50 in the northern Sierra.