Recent storms blanketed much of Eastern Madera County’s higher elevations in crisp white snowfall, making a great time for snowmen, hot cocoa, or heading out to Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area for a winter adventure. And a trio of freezing storms will arrive this week to bring snow as low as 2,000 feet elevation, allowing more opportunities to enjoy the frosty winter season.
Scott Rowe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, said it was difficult to get exact day-to-day reports on snowfall in some areas of the county. But he said throughout the “atmospheric river” event that flooded parts of North Fork last week, Fish Camp received more than 7 inches of precipitation, much of it as snow.
In Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, Rowe said the storms brought more than three feet of snow, making for a total of 81 inches at 8,700 feet elevation so far this year.
To further increase those amounts, the first of three storms was forecast to begin Wednesday afternoon, with a winter storm warning issued for 2 p.m. that day through 2 p.m. Thursday.
Rowe said the first storm could bring six inches to a foot of snow above 5,000 feet elevation, with as much as 18 inches above 7,000 feet.
“It’s going to be a really unsettled week,” Rowe said. “That first system is going to sort of kick things off before the colder storm moves in.”
Around noon on Friday, Rowe said the second system will move into the Mountain Area, with snow levels expected around 3,000 feet. A push of cold air into early Saturday could drop snow levels down to 2,000 feet, meaning flurries may be seen in Bass Lake, Oakhurst, Coarsegold, and other parts of the Mountain Area, Rowe said.
“If there’s an opportunity for snow to be in the foothills, it’s going to be in this weekend’s storm,” Rowe said.
That storm, similar to the first deluge, is forecast to bring a similar amount of snow and up to 1.5 inches of rain in Oakhurst and surrounding areas, Rowe said. He added a final system will begin impacting the area Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a nice thing to see snow at these lower levels, much lower than the ‘atmospheric river’ storms we saw earlier this month,” Rowe said. “We want to see lower snow levels for this time in January.”
The “atmospheric river,” a warmer storm with stronger amounts of precipitation, flooded the Mountain Area from Jan. 6 to Jan. 12, with mandatory evacuations issued in parts of North Fork due to increased discharges from Bass Lake. Rowe said this week’s storms will not be as powerful, but the lower snow levels could create what he called “travel headaches.”
“The public should remain aware that these storms could create some hiccups in their travel plans,” Rowe said. “It’s best to plan ahead.”
Winter fun in Yosemite
Those looking to take advantage of the snowy conditions have the opportunity to visit Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area (formerly known as Badger Pass), which opened for the season last weekend.
The resort, which has 10 slope runs and five lifts, also offers snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals, guided snowshoe walks with park rangers, and cross-country ski lessons.
Lifts at the resort, located at 7082 Glacier Point Road, will be open 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily, with the ticketing and rental shop opening at 8:30 a.m..
Yosemite boasts nearly 100 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.
The National Park Service offers daily ranger-led snowshoe walks that depart from the Ranger A-Frame office at 10:30 a.m. There is a courtesy shuttle daily between Yosemite Valley lodges and the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.
See pricing and hotel ski packages at www.TravelYosemite.com.
Ski and road conditions: (209) 372-1000.
Sierra Star Staff Report