Brewing storm could help California's water woes
Heavy snow and strong winds have rushed into California's Sierra Nevada, finally giving the area a long-overdue blast of winter.
A winter storm carrying the prospect of up to 5 feet of snow for the Northern Sierra began to hit late Tuesday and was expected to last well through Wednesday, putting state road crews on alert while brightening the state's water outlook heading into spring.
"After tonight, you probably don't want to travel in the Sierra until Thursday," said George Cline, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
Forecasters on Wednesday posted winter storm warnings for blizzard-like conditions with 5 feet of snow and 60 mph winds possible through Thursday afternoon. Snowfall rates up to 4 inches an hour were expected along the Sierra Crest.
The California Department of Transportation said chains are now required for Interstate 80 travelers from Placer County to Nevada County.
Strong winds and heavy rain made for difficult driving conditions on San Francisco Bay area roads on Wednesday morning. At least two bridges _ the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge _ were under a high-wind advisory. Caltrans said travel isn't recommended for big-rigs, motor homes and those pulling trailers.
State surveyors from the Department of Water Resources measured the Sierra's paltry snowpack on Tuesday and found it just 30 percent of normal.
The Northern California storm could ease fears among the 29 agencies that depend on snowmelt delivered through the State Water Project that already are bracing for meager allocations. Some farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley have been told to expect just half of the water they requested for the spring and summer growing seasons.
The forecast calls for snow in both the Sierra and Coast mountain ranges with the biggest wallop coming above 6,500 feet, where accumulation could be between 2 and 4 feet, and up to 5 feet at the highest elevations.
The cold front sweeping down from the Gulf of Alaska will also ...