“Pea to nickel” sized hail rained down as booming thunder rang throughout on the southern Sierra Nevada foothills Monday afternoon, and is to be followed by snow Monday night, during what weather officials are calling the “coldest” winter storm.
The hail began pouring down in Oakhurst and Coarsegold shortly before 1 p.m. and continued throughout the rest of the afternoon.
“Easily the coldest that we’ve had this winter and definitely one of the strongest,” said David Spector, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “This storm looks like it’s going to be on and off. And it should start to taper off tomorrow, meaning less in terms of coverage.”
A winter weather advisory is in place for the western portion of the San Joaquin Valley above 2,000 feet. Higher up, a winter storm warning remains in place for the Tulare County Mountains and Sierra Nevada from Yosemite to Kings Canyon.
Spector said the storm will be at its strongest Monday night, when areas like Oakhurst, Coarsegold and North Fork are expected to receive about seven to 11 inches of snow between 9 p.m. Monday night and 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Mariposa, on the other hand, is expected to receive little to no snow accumulation.
According to the National Weather Service, mountain area drivers can expect snow-covered roads, travel delays and possible road closures during the storm.
Caltrans reported seven different collisions near Oakhurst and Coarsegold caused by the storm at around 3 p.m., with four of them being along Highway 41.
Snow levels in the Sierra foothills are expected to begin at around 2,500 feet.
Above 4,000 feet, areas can expect one to four feet of snow accompanied by sub-zero wind chill temperatures in higher elevations.
Spector said this storm originated in the gulf of Alaska.
“We don’t usually get a cold storm like this. We only get it every three or four years,” Spector said. The other four storms in the area were primarily made up of tropical moisture.
PG&E reported Monday that the storm has left 118 homes in Coarsegold. In Oakhurst, there were 70 homes without power, although those could not be confirmed to be in relation to the storm.
The storm is predicted to last through Tuesday.
If the forecast proves correct and Oakhurst sees snow Monday night, it will be the first snow in the area since Jan. 2017.