It's been a while. No, it's been an eternity since fresh, natural snow blanketed the California Sierra ski areas. How bad has it been? At Heavenly, they have had only 60 inches of snow this season through Wednesday afternoon, and 24 of 97 runs are open. Squaw Valley has had 33 to 59 inches of snow this season with only 13 trails open. Mammoth Mountain this season has had only a meager 48 inches at the Main Lodge. Normal snowfall for the whole season for the resorts is 300 to 400 inches or better. Just a few years ago, Mammoth had 668.5 inches of snow in 2010-11.
A moist, Pacific storm will bring snow and strong winds Wednesday night into Thursday. Snow accumulations are likely to average 8 to 16 inches with local amounts to 2 feet. This is not a huge storm by Sierra standards, but it is huge this year when we consider how little has fallen to date. The negative, at least in the short term, will be the wind as it plays havoc with lift operations and also causes blowing snow problems.
In the lowlands, the rain that falls will be welcomed. Expect 0.25 to 0.50 of an inch of rain from the Bay Area to Sacramento Valley with much higher amounts in the upslope areas of the western Sierra foothills. A place like Blue Canyon could pick up 2 to 3 inches of rain. As the cold front with the storm moves south, the amount of rain decreases, and by the time it reaches the Southern California Thursday night and Friday morning, only spotty, light showers will occur.
You can follow me on Twitter @Kenwxman
The amount of water in the snowpack in the Sierra is far below normal for even this time of year.
Flooding will be a given, most widespread in the northern half of the state.
This storm will endanger life and property both on the seas and over land in a large area.
A huge storm is expected it impact much of the Bering Sea beginning Friday night
This will be the first significant statewide rain and snow event of the season.