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Impressive snowfall totals in California ahead of new winter storm

Impressive snowfall totals in California ahead of new winter storm

A powerful atmospheric river impacted the US West Coast from February 29 through March 3, 2024, dropping massive amounts of snow to the Sierra Nevada.

The most extreme conditions hit the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada, where over 3 m (120 inches) of snow and wind gusts reaching 305 km/h (190 mph) were reported.

In Nevada, more than 33 000 customers experienced power outages, alongside nearly 24 000 in California. Early Sunday morning, March 3, a total of 12 184 customers in California were without power and 6 386 in Nevada. On March 5 at 20:46 UTC (12:46 PST), a total of 9 604 customers in California were without power.

The storm has forced the closure of major transport routes and ski resorts, impacting tens of thousands of residents across the western United States.

At Lake Tahoe’s Palisades ski resort, known as the largest in the area and the 1960 Winter Olympics venue, wind gusts surpassed 240 km/h (150 mph), with a peak gust reaching 305 km/h (190 mph) on Friday evening (LT) at the Siberia summit, situated at 2 652 m (8 700 feet).

The Interstate 80 highway, a critical 121 km (75 mile) stretch, was closed due to hazardous conditions, complicating rescue and recovery efforts. The California Highway Patrol Office in Truckee, a key location near the Nevada border, reported significant challenges for emergency personnel and tow trucks.

The storm also produced a tornado that damaged an elementary school in Madera County, California, on Friday afternoon, March 1.

On March 4, NWS reported the following snowfall totals:

CitySnowfall (inches)Snowfall (m)
Sugar Bowl1263.20
Soda Springs CalTrans1162.95
Kingvale CalTrans1062.69
Palisades Tahoe962.44
Dodge Ridge862.18
Sierra Snow Lab75.21.91
Boreal741.88
Eagles Lakes CalTrans661.68
Kee Canyon CalTrans310.79
Top 4-Day Snow Reports
CitySnowfall (inches)Snowfall (m)
Quincy (3-day)18 – 240.46 – 0.61
Shilgletown (3-day)5 – 100.13 – 0.25
Arnold (2-day)10.50.27
Camino (2-day)6.60.17
Additional snow reports
atmospheric river snowfall totals february 29 to march 4 2024 california

The conditions improved on Monday, March 4, but additional snow will fall across high elevations of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest into Wednesday, March 6, as a new storm pushes into the region. The amounts, however, are expected to be well short of the weekend’s powerful storm.

“One more day of heavy higher elevation/mountain snows continues in the West as an energetic jet stream sits over a quasi-stationary boundary and an influx of Pacific moisture focused through northern California and the southern Pacific Northwest into the northern Great Basin and Rockies,” NWS forecaster Putnam said on March 5.

According to NWS, several more inches of snow are forecast in the regional mountain ranges from the southern Cascades and northern Sierra east to the Tetons in Wyoming.

Colder air settling in with the front has brought snow levels lower, bringing snow to interior lower-elevation valley locations as well as from southern Oregon into western Idaho.

Another Pacific storm system dropping southward along the California Coast will help to shift the influx of Pacific moisture southward by Wednesday, finally bringing improving conditions as snowfall tapers off.

Along the coast, some locally heavy rainfall is expected Tuesday for northern California, shifting southward with the system into southern California Wednesday. Here, more sensitive conditions due to recent high-profile rainfall events may lead to an isolated but nonzero threat of flash flooding.

References:

1 Snowfall Totals Are In! – NWS Sacramento, CA – March 4, 2024

2 Massive blizzard strikes California and Nevada with wind gusts up to 305 km/h (190 mph) – The Watchers – March 3, 2024

3 Short Range Forecast Discussion – NWS Weather Prediction Center College Park MD – 305 AM EST Tue Mar 05 2024

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