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Winter blast past?

Downtown Sonora had collected some 4 inches of snow by Saturday morning. Gary Piech / Union Democrat, Copyright 2013.
Slightly warmer temperatures are expected this week after the weekend’s winter wallop blanketed the foothills in snow, adding to a week of freezing temperatures that busted pipes, downed power lines and made driving perilous.

A dusting of snow fell overnight Friday and Saturday morning below 1,000 feet. The foothills and high country collected more substantial amounts. Sonora got in excess of 4 inches and Dodge Ridge counted 20.

According to the National Weather Service, snow accumulated as low as 700 feet in the foothills and some parts of the northern Sacramento Valley.

The weekend snowfall contributed to dozens of power outages, affecting thousands of people Saturday. As of this morning, power was restored to all areas.

Frigid temperatures following the snow made for dangerous driving conditions.

In anticipation of this, several schools started late this morning.

The Central Sierra and foothills remain under a hard-freeze warning through Wednesday morning, with lows projected in the teens overnight tonight and the 20s overnight Tuesday.

The National Weather Service forecasts high temperatures later this week will push from the 40s into the 50s by Wednesday. Overnight lows in the 20s will rise into the 30s by Thursday in Sonora.

Saturday will see a high around 56 and low around 35.

All three mountain passes along highways 4, 108 and 120 remain closed, and chains were required as of this morning beginning at east Twain Harte, Arnold and Highway 120 three miles west of Yosemite National Park.

The storm kept emergency responders busy on Friday and Saturday.

Police logs in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties show dozens of reports of vehicles stranded and spun out from the snow into Saturday afternoon.

Power outages played havoc on alarm systems.

Sgt. Scott Johnson, Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Sunday that outages trip alarms when the systems turn off and on again.

Officers have to check every report, just in case they’re not false alarms, he said.

Even with the busy 24-hour stretch, he said there were no major incidents through the storm.

“It’s pretty much what we expected,” he said. “The cold weather leading up (to the storm) helped. People were a little bit more prepared when the snow did hit.”

Tuolumne and Calaveras counties operated warming shelters over the weekend. Calaveras County’s shelters closed after Sunday. 

In Tuolumne County, a Saturday power outage forced the Sonora warming shelter to move from the Behavioral Health department in the old Tuolumne General Hospital campus to the Seventh-day Adventist church in Sonora.

DeDe Cognetti, a counselor with Behavioral Health, said they had a problem with the generator at the original shelter but they were able to move back in Sunday.

About a dozen people used the shelter over the weekend, Cognetti said.

“I’m sure as long as the conditions stay below 30, I would imagine we would continue as long as we have volunteers,” she said.

Union Democrat reporter Austen Thibault contributed to this report.

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