Crews prepare to open passes

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By LENORE

RUTHERFORD

The high country is changing with the season.

With a below-average snowpack in the high country, Caltrans crews plan to start clearing mountain passes Monday, and winter ski areas are closing for the season.

Bear Valley Mountain Resort off Highway 4 is targeting April 20 for closure, but Public Relations Director Andrea Young said people should call ahead to make sure the resort is open, especially if temperatures get into the 80s in the Central Valley.

Dodge Ridge Winter Sports Area off Highway 108 closed for the season Sunday.

Although the PG&E snow survey taken last week determined the water content of the snowpack in the Stanislaus River Watershed is just 72 percent of normal, Dodge Ridge spokeswoman Karrie Mathson said heavy snowfalls in December and January still allowed for what she called a "great season."

Caltrans officials say Sonora Pass over Highway 108 and Ebbetts Pass over Highway 4 will be open in time for the Memorial Day weekend in late May.

"They could open earlier than that," said Michael Barrington, Caltrans Supervisor based at Camp Connell on Highway 4. "It all depends now on the weather in weeks to come. We could get the roads all cleaned out, then have a big snowstorm close them again."

The National Weather Service is predicting a change in the weather starting tonight.

A chance of rain and higher elevation snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow. The snow level is expected to start around 6,500 feet and lower to around 4,000 feet tomorrow.

A chance of rain and snow is forecast for Thursday, Friday and Saturday with snow levels possibly as low as 3,000 feet off and on.

The forecast is for dry weather Sunday followed by a new storm on Monday.

The PG&E snow survey is used to plan summer water allocations for the summer months.

The Stanislaus River Watershed feeds the South San Joaquin and Oakdale irrigation districts and the Central Valley Project.

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