Storm of the Year: The Sierra is About to Get SLAMMED with Up to 6 Feet of Snow

Carson Pass saw massive snow walls during the epic winter of 2023

Northern California is on the cusp of experiencing the most significant snow event of the year as an atmospheric river storm sets its sights on the region Sunday, promising substantial snowfall across the Sierra Nevada. This is the storm we’ve been waiting for, but it could lead to dangerous travel conditions and severe wind.

“This will probably be the biggest snow event to low or to medium elevations in the Sierra Nevada so far this year,” said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.

According to the National Weather Service, snow accumulations could reach 78 inches in the Sierra, with the mountains just south of Tahoe getting the most snow. Echo Summit and Donner Pass are forecast to get 3 feet and 4 feet of snow, respectively.

Snow levels will initiate at relatively low elevations of 3,000 to 4,000 feet, climbing to between 4,000 and 6,000 feet as the storm progresses. The heaviest snowfall is anticipated Sunday afternoon through Monday, with winter storm warnings in effect across the Sierra Nevada, including the Greater Lake Tahoe area, extending into early next week.

Meteorologists predict wind speeds of 25 to 45 miles per hour, with gusts potentially reaching up to 70 mph, particularly from Sunday mid-morning to evening. Residents are urged to exercise caution, particularly around trees and branches, and to avoid forested areas where the risk of falling debris is high. The National Weather Service advises staying indoors, preferably in lower levels away from windows, and to proceed with caution when driving.

This storm arrives at a critical time, with California’s snowpack reported to be at only 52% of its average for the year, despite recent increments from ongoing winter storms. While this atmospheric river event is expected to further contribute to the snowpack, levels will likely remain below average.

Travelers are advised to exercise extreme caution, with predictions of challenging, if not impossible, driving conditions and potential road closures. The snow, falling at rates of up to two inches per hour, is likely to make travel “difficult to impossible,” adding another layer of challenge for residents and travelers alike.

Here we go, NorCal! Stay safe out there.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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