By LENORE RUTHERFORD
Despite a stormy April, road crews are making gains toward the annual springtime opening of nearby mountain passes.
This has been the ninth-wettest April in Sonora since The Union Democrat started keeping records in 1886, and another storm is expected to slam into the foothills late tonight or early tomorrow.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for tonight through Saturday with the snow level staying above 6,500 feet.
According to the National Service forecast, rainfall totals could approach record levels for early May.
The late-season storm comes after a particularly cold and rainy April, the result of a series of storms originating in the Gulf of Alaska.
Sonora received 6.01 inches of precipitation last month. The wettest April was in 1967, when 10.32 inches of precipitation fell.
In Calaveras County, 8.63 inches of rain fell on Angels Camp last month. No record is available for comparison.
Despite the precipitation, May 23 the Friday before the three-day Memorial Day weekend is the target date for opening Sonora Pass over Highway 108 and Ebbetts Pass over Highway 4.
No target date has been set for opening Tioga Pass over Highway 120.
"We opened (Highway 108) up to Kennedy Meadow last Friday, just in time for the opening weekend of trout season," said Ken Weeks, Caltrans supervisor based at Long Barn, yesterday. "We have been getting hit with storm after storm since we started working to open the pass on April 7, but so far it has melted real quick each time it snowed, and we keep making progress."
Tim McGrath, Caltrans lead worker based at Long Barn, said crews went 5 miles above Kennedy Meadow yesterday and found 3 to 5 feet of snow on the road with more in drifts at some spots.
"There is more snow up there than last year," he said, "and we have gotten all of it in the last month. It's looking good for the snowpack."
PG&E crews are measuring the snowpack at a variety of locations in Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties this week.