Sierra blasted by snow, wind, rain



A series of winter storms brought blasts of wind, buried the high country in snow, soaked the foothills and blew tree down throughout the foothills this weekend.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning continuing through tonight with snow showers expected as low as 3,000 feet by Tuesday, and a chance of rain or snow showers is in the forecast every day through Sunday.

Gusts of high winds up to 100 mph in some places around the state caused the biggest problems.

A Livermore man died Saturday in Calaveras County when a rain-soaked oak tree fell on his pickup as he traveled west on Highway 26, the California Highway Patrol said.

Benjamin Brown, 53, was alone in his truck about 2:10 p.m., driving west on Highway 26 near Valley Springs when the oak toppled.

During a break in the storm this morning, others continued to clean up damage done by precipitation and the wind.

Howard McDonald and Gloria Mooney, who live in Cascade Mobile Home Park on Wards Ferry Road had a rude surprise about 8:30 this morning when an oak tree fell on their carport and two cars.

"I was sitting in the bedroom playing my guitar," McDonald said, "when I thought I heard a lightning bolt hitting the pavement. When I looked out, a tree was growing out of our cars."

Still, county road departments and Caltrans both reported relatively light damage on county roads considering the severity of this weekend's storms .

Clogged culverts contributed to a good deal of flooding during a Nov. 8 storm that pounded Sonora dropping nearly 5 inches of rain in two hours. During that storm, mudslides and flash floods damaged businesses on Mono Way, in the downtown Sonora area and at Tuolumne General Hospital.

Calaveras County Public Works Superintendent Bob Kawasaki said there were a few problems to the north, but nothing crews couldn't cope with.

"We have had four or five trees down and some rocks on the road here and there, but we haven't had any major landslides," he said. "I was surprised that we came out of this so well."

A load of snow over the weekend has staff at winter sports areas that were concerned about a lack of snow last week digging out and getting ready for a busy season.

Dodge Ridge got enough snow over the weekend to set Wednesday as the opening date for the season, Marketing Director Stephen Lane said.

"We're excited. We have about 3 feet at the top and 2 feet at the bottom right now," he said. "Our only problem now is digging out and getting ready to open."

Schuyler Harrison of Bear Valley Mountain Resort said it was still snowing at least 3 inches an hour there about 8 this morning, and he and staff members were worried about being able to dig out the parking lot to allow visitors today.

Caltrans Supervisor Mike Barrington, based at Camp Connell, said his crews were dealing with snow in the high country and water in the foothills.

"The worst area right now is Arnold," he said. "The highway keeps flooding. Our guys are running from drain to drain as fast as they can, trying to keep them unclogged."

Mark Hendrickson of PG&E said Tuolumne and Calaveras counties have had relatively few power outages compared to other areas of the state.

He said about 51 customers were without power in the Pine Mountain Lake area this morning, and about 146 customers were without power in the western areas of Calaveras counties.

The Union Democrat
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