Tremendous wind-whipped snows to blanket California mountains

Forecasters expect prolific snows across California’s mountains amid a season that’s lacked its usual and much-needed wintry weather

February has certainly not been a quiet month in California. Multiple atmospheric rivers targeted the state with high winds and as much as 400 mm of rain.

A powerful winter storm will be the story to start March.

California weather alerts

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The Sierra Nevada Mountains will take the brunt of the winter weather where 5-10 feet (about 150-300 cm) of snow is expected above 5000 feet (1500 m) of elevation.

Interstate 80 surpasses 7000 feet (2100 m) at the pass, meaning travel will likely be shut down between Nevada and California.

California snowfall totals

Snowfall accumulation will be minimal below 2000 feet (600 m), but wind gusts of 75 mph (120 km/h) will increase the risk of power outages into the weekend.

Normally, significant snow is welcomed in the mountains as it is relied upon to fill the state’s reservoirs through the summer months.

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The abundant rain in the past few weeks has 16 of the 17 major reservoirs at above-normal levels to start March.

California reservoir status

New Melones is one of the biggest in the state and is currently at 137 percent of its normal volume. However, this is only 82 percent of its total capacity.

In the south, the Cachuma reservoir north of Los Angeles is at 136 percent of normal volume—but an alarming level of 99 percent of its total capacity.

Header image courtesy of NOAA.

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