White Christmas forecast at 2,000 feet

In what may become the perfect holiday gift, meteorologists forecast a storm moving into Oakhurst and the surrounding Mountain Area Christmas Eve could cover elevations as low as 2,000 feet in a snowy blanket for Christmas morning.

“Some areas will likely see a white Christmas this year,” said Jim Andersen, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford. “It’s going to be a colder storm and there’s a high potential for some snow.”

Starting around 10 a.m. Thursday, Andersen said the storm will begin in the northern area of Yosemite National Park and move southward, much like a few tempests that brought large quantities of rainfall into Tuesday afternoon.

He said precipitation won’t be as high as those previous storms, with about half-an-inch to an inch of rainfall in some areas south of the park.

“It will probably get cold enough for snow in the Oakhurst area at night into midnight beginning Friday,” Andersen said. “And Santa always gets to where he’s going, so I don’t think he’s got too much to worry about in this weather.”

Some four to eight inches of snow is predicted to fall in Yosemite National Park and other areas higher than 5,000 feet elevation, such as Fish Camp, Andersen said.

He added snow levels may even drop as low as 1,700 feet, though all numbers can change as forecasts are more finalized leading up to the storm’s arrival.

Cindy Bean, another NWS meteorologist, added those with travel plans for the holidays should be prepared as the weather system is “unsettled” and could bring less predictable results.

“We do think there’s going to be a good amount of snow and the levels will come down, but these things can change,” Bean said. “Everyone should stay prepared with what they need to travel safely.”

To wrap up Christmas conditions, for the first time since 1977, there will also be a full moon.

The moon will be at its peak 6:11 a.m. Christmas Day, for any early risers. The next such event won’t take place until 2034, according to NASA.

Heavy rains

Earlier this week, a duo of weather systems drenched the Mountain Area in several inches of rain over a period of more than 30 hours.

The storms, which began over the weekend, dried out, then started up again Monday, brought as much as 3.44 inches of rain at Miami Highlands Drive in Oakhurst in a 24-hour period, with higher amounts as numbers continued to rise by press time Tuesday afternoon.

In that 24-hour period from 10 a.m. Monday to Tuesday, not including the whole storm, North Fork received 3.86 inches, Coarsegold 3.29, the Bass Lake Marina 2.99, Raymond 2.74, and Yosemite Lakes Park 2.71.

Temperatures in Oakhurst, varying in surrounding areas, will reach the upper 30s to lower 40s through Christmas Day, with lows as cold as 20 degrees.

Above average totals

Andersen said the Valley and Mountain Area are doing better in seasonal rainfall totals than the past several years of drought.

For snowpack, Bean said the latest reports from the Department of Water Resources indicate much of the Mountain Area is at about 78% of its normal water content in a regular season, though those numbers had yet to be updated after this week’s storms.

Anne Grandy, with the official government weather station at the Bass Lake Ranger District in North Fork, said the area has received 12.52 inches of rain since July 1, above the 10.7-inch seasonal average to date.

From July 1-June 30 each year, the records, kept since 1903, indicate an annual total season average of rainfall slightly above 32 inches.