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Parts of California turned into a 'winter wonderland' after unusually heavy May storm

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 17, 2019, 2:10:05 PM EDT

California and surrounding states were soaked this week by a major storm more typical of the winter months that dropped record rainfall amounts in some places and even some significant snowfall in higher elevations.

(Twitter photo/Mammoth Mountain)

According to Mammoth Mountain, 8 to 10 inches of snow fell Wednesday night into Thursday.

(Twitter photo/Mammoth Mountain)

According to Mammoth Mountain, 8 to 10 inches of snow fell Wednesday night into Thursday.

(Photo/Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park)

Snow falling in Sequoia National Park, California, home to the largest trees in the world.

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A woman uses an umbrella as it rains at the Capitol, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif.

(Twitter photo/@SonooSingh)

Sonoo Singh captured the storm from her hotel, the Andaz West Hollywood, on Thursday morning.

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Drivers make their way in the pouring rain along the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Drivers make their way in the pouring rain along the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Rain arrived in Los Angeles in time to make the morning commute slippery, adding to a seasonal accumulation that's already above normal.

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

People walk through Gabrielson Park during a break between storms Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Sausalito, Calif. A storm moved into Northern California on Wednesday.

(Twitter photo/@CaltransDist3)

Roads, including I-80, remained wet on late Thursday morning. Local officials were urging motorists to drive with caution.

(Twitter photo/@NWSLosAngeles)

Rain fell across eastern Ventura and Los Angeles Counties on Thursday morning.

(Photo/Mammoth Mountain)

Up to a foot of snow fell at Mammoth Mountain, California, as of Thursday afternoon.

Rain began overspreading northern portions of the state on Wednesday and ramped up in the evening. San Francisco picked up its average rainfall for all of May on Wednesday alone as 0.47 of an inch fell.

Venado, California, recorded 5.19 inches of rain as of early Thursday afternoon, which set a new rainfall record for any day in May. The previous record at Venado was 3.28 inches set on May 18, 2005.

California Rain Reports

These amounts of rainfall are extremely out of the ordinary for this time of year. With the exception of far Northern California, average precipitation for May is generally under 0.50 of an inch across the state.

Downtown Los Angeles picked up nearly double its normal rainfall for the entire month of May on Thursday as 0.48 of an inch fell. Up the coast in Spokane, Washington, intense rainfall caused flash-flooding that trapped cars and made commuting difficult for motorists.

Enough cold air plunged in with the storm for heavy snow to pile up across the high-country of the Sierra, including I-80's Donner Pass.

A snow total of 10-12 inches was reported at Mammoth Mountain, in Mammoth Lakes, California, on Thursday by the ski resort in a Twitter post. Farther north, around 9 inches of snow was reported at Squaw Valley ski resort.

The May snowfall is a boon for ski resorts, particularly for Mammoth Mountain, which has seen its ski season extend beyond six months -- and it's still going strong. Joani Lynch, vice president of sales and marketing for Mammoth Mountain resort, told AccuWeather Broadcast Meteorologist Brittany Boyer in an interview that about 471 inches of snow has fallen this season.

The snowfall this week added to the already significant snow pack on the slopes there. "We currently have a base depth of 7 to 12 feet of snow," Lynch said. The resort is planning to remain open through early July.

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The ski slopes weren't the only places that sported a wintry look on Thursday.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Sacramento said in a post on Twitter that the surrounding area looked "like a winter wonderland in mid-May" as morning traffic cameras showed a snowy I-80 and very little traffic. Snow also blanketed Sequoia National Park in California, which is home to the largest trees in the world.

Snowfall even made it into the desert of northern Nevada. The NWS posted video of snow flakes coming down Thursday outside its office in Elko, about 400 miles north of Las Vegas.

Are more storms to come?

Despite the worst of the storm having passed, those eager for the region's more typical storm-free May weather should not get their hopes up anytime soon.

"The amazing thing is that there still may be more opportunities for rain behind this storm," Thompson said.

Yet another storm is expected to move in this weekend, followed by a third next week.

These storms will ignite round after round of severe weather in the central U.S. once they emerge east of the Rockies and into the Plains.

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