TRUCKEE (CBS SF) — After a historic dry February, Mother Nature zeroed in Friday on the Sierra with a fierce winter storm front that could dump as much as four feet of much needed snow on the higher elevations and ski resorts.
But forecasters were not yet using the Northern California term — March Miracle — for the wintry blast and its impact on the water supply.
The snowpack, source of drinking water for much of the San Francisco Area, was ravaged by an unusually dry, unusually warm month of February. For the first time since 1864, San Francisco went without even a traceable amount of rain.
The culprit was a high pressure system stalled off the Northern California coast that split incoming storm front sending rains into Southern California or the Pacific Northwest. Finally, a cold front has pushed the system away and re-opened the storm door.
“Along with cooler weather, this low will bring with it the chance of rain by early Saturday morning, beginning in the North Bay and spreading south across the district,” the National Weather Service said. “This low will hang around for quite a while as it meanders down the coast from Saturday through Wednesday, all the while maintaining the chance of rain over the area.”
But the brunt of the storm’s fury will not be experienced in the Bay Area.
“Unfortunately, this system does not have a significant moisture tap as we see with Atmospheric Rivers,” weather forecasters said. “Therefore, rainfall amounts will be light. Saturday’s rainfall amounts are expected to be a 0.30″ to 0.50″ across the Bay Area with upwards of 0.75″ to 1″ over the North Bay hills and the Santa Cruz Mountains.”
“When all is said and done,” the weather service added, “storm total accumulations will be anywhere from around 1 inch at lower elevations, 2 to 3 inches across the coastal ranges.”
So the Bay Area will still remain in the abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The storm will batter the Lake Tahoe area with extremely heavy snow and strong winds at the higher elevations.
“Snow will move into the Sierra tonight becoming heavy and lasting through the weekend,” forecasters with the weather service in Reno said. “The largest accumulations over the weekend are expected in the central Sierra with 2-4 feet along the crest and 12-18 inches around the Lake Tahoe basin.”
A winter storm warning will go into effect for the region from 11 p.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Monday.
“Total snow accumulations of 12 to 18 inches, with 2 to 4 feet above 7000 feet,” forecasters said. “Winds gusting as high as 50 mph with ridge winds gusting to 100 mph.”