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Chance For Snow Sends Bay Area Into Flurry

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San Francisco rain, weather

A pedestrian uses a plastic trash bag to protect himself from the rain as he walks down Market Street in San Francisco on February 17, 2011. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP / BCN) — A storm system moving into Northern California has created the possibility that San Francisco will see its first significant snowfall in 35 years, creating all sorts of buzz around the city about the rare weather event.

The near sea-level city last saw snow on the ground in 1976, when an inch fell. Weather forecasters say there’s just a 10 percent chance that a drop in temperatures could combine with precipitation to create snow late Friday and early Saturday, but that hasn’t stopped the tech-savvy city from looking skyward with anticipation.

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One blogger posted a pretend ski map, noting possible beginner, intermediate and expert runs in the city’s hilly Bernal Heights neighborhood. A newly created website — isitsnowinginsfyet.com — gives a simple answer for anyone who is wondering.

Whether or not it will snow in San Francisco has caused a great deal of conversation in the city and online, with bloggers and Twitter users debating the possibility.

Tweets included “This is becoming the Chinese Democracy of San Francisco snowstorms,” a reference to the band Guns N’ Roses’ long-delayed album, “Never have I been so busy talking about a non-snowstorm in my life,” and “It’s 50 degrees and sunny here in SF…I think we’ve been duped!”

“Possible snow here in San Francisco?” city resident Anthony Nachor wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Better wait and see…”

“I’ve been hearing about snow for days,” said Sarah Saavedra, a resident of the city’s Western Addition neighborhood. “Maybe it’ll be cold, maybe it’ll be wet, but I don’t think it’s going to snow.”

The San Francisco Chronicle has posted old photos of snow from 1882, 1951, 1964 and other rare instances of city snowfall — including one photo from the 1976 storm that shows gleeful schoolkids throwing snowballs.

Bob Benjamin, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Monterey, said the likelihood of snow is very minimal, and any snow that does fall, probably won’t stick to the ground. There’s the possibility of a dusting in the city’s Twin Peaks neighborhood, but that’s about it, he said.

“We won’t wake up and run out and go build snowmen,” Benjamin said.

Nonetheless, the storm prompted San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to take precautionary measures. He urged residents to watch out for icy road conditions, and, if possible, avoid driving during the storm’s peak. The city’s public works department was planning to offer free sandbags and emergency crews were on stand-by.

For snow to fall and accumulate in San Francisco, temperatures must drop to 36 degrees, precipitation must be falling and the ground must be chilled for several days beforehand, said Steve Anderson, also a National Weather Service forecaster.

But it rarely gets that cold in San Francisco, where the surrounding bay and Pacific Ocean generally keeps temperatures moderate.

By Friday evening, no rain or snow had fallen in San Francisco, but light showers moving down from the coast were expected to drop some sort of precipitation by midnight, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Christopher Stumpf.

“You could possibly get a few flurries,” Stumpf said.

The National Weather Service is still forecasting snow late Friday and into the early hours of Saturday, but probably only at elevations above about 1,000 Stumf said.

The winter storm warning for the North Bay was canceled Friday but is still in effect for the Monterey area, he said.

Winter weather advisories are in effect for the East Bay hills, Mount Diablo, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the mountains of San Benito and Monterey counties.

Strong overnight winds led to thousands of power outages across the Bay Area Friday, with the majority of outages in the Peninsula and South Bay.

Gallery: Bay Area Snow History

Record low temperatures are predicted in North Bay valleys overnight, from 25 to 38 degrees.

This week’s storm has already dumped more than 2 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada, and forecasters said more than 3 feet could fall in the highest elevations by the end of the weekend.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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