Heavy snowfall in the Mountain Area closed schools and part of Yosemite National Park, caused highway delays, and knocked out power for nearly 4,000 people this week.
From Sunday night into Monday evening, a powdery gale took over Eastern Madera County, eventually leading to upwards of 18 inches of snow in Fish Camp, and four inches in Oakhurst.
Jim Andersen, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, described the storm as an “inside slider,” as it moved south from frosty northern coasts and slid inland.
He said a mixture of rain and snow got as low as 1,600 feet elevation during that period, marking an excellent sign for the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides about a third of the entire state’s water supply.
“There wasn’t a lot of snow that low, but it was a great sign because it shows you’re going to get much more up higher in the mountains,” Andersen said. “You really want that snow, because the snowpack is incredibly important for a slow runoff.”
On Tuesday, the California Data Exchange Center noted the Central Sierra snowpack was already above seasonal averages at 109%. To date, the Central Sierra is at 195% of yearly averages with 31.7 inches of snow, followed by 240% in the Southern Sierra (32.4 inches), and 161% in the north (25.4 inches).
Andersen said though the year has provided strong amounts of precipitation, it will take time for California’s ongoing drought to end.
“I think compared to the last five years, we’re having a very good year,” Andersen said. “We’re still not out of the drought yet, of course. It took us five years to get into this, so it’ll take time for us to get out of it. However, these storms have been a huge help.”
A second round of precipitation moved in Monday evening but petered out by Tuesday. From 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, Andersen said Oakhurst received 2.07 inches of precipitation, alongside North Fork (4.5 inches), Bass Lake (3.49), Coarsegold (2.98), Mariposa (1.84), Yosemite Lakes Park (1.81), and Yosemite Valley (3.44).
No storms were predicted this week, Andersen said.
As the weekend weather blanketed Eastern Madera County in snow, slick roadways became commonplace and power went out for more than 3,800 customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
Around 9 a.m. Monday, PG&E reported 11 outages around Oakhurst, Bass Lake, and surrounding locations. Power slowly returned, though some areas were without power late into the day.
On the road, snow quickly accumulated and eventually lead to the closure of Highway 41 over Deadwood between Coarsegold and Oakhurst as Caltrans snowplows moved through. It was reopened to traffic shortly after 10 a.m. Monday.
All campuses in the Bass Lake Joint Union School District, including Oakhurst Elementary School, Oak Creek Intermediate, Wasuma Elementary School, and Fresno Flats Day School were closed Monday. For Yosemite Unified School District, Yosemite High School was also closed, but Rivergold Elementary School and Coarsegold Elementary School remained in session.
Classes at Oakhurst Community College were canceled Monday as well.
In Yosemite National Park, Highway 41 remained temporarily closed Tuesday between Yosemite Valley and the Wawona area due to the snow. All roads in Yosemite Valley are under R1 restrictions similar to those in portions of the Mountain Area, meaning chains or snow tires are required to be carried on all vehicles. Badger Pass Road also remained closed in the park.
For updated road conditions in Yosemite, call (209) 372-0200 then dial 1, and 1 again, or visit nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.
Editor’s note: This story, published over the weekend, was updated during the week to reflect storm totals and snowpack information.