Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

Several inches of snow and record-low temperatures are expected this weekend in the Mother Lode, beginning this evening.

The National Weather Service issued a "Winter Storm Warning" for the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, recommending people not travel except in emergencies due to severe winter weather conditions, including downed trees and power lines.

"Driving conditions normally seen only near pass levels will occur at much lower elevations" the warning said.

The Weather Service had "high confidence" this morning in snow accumulating down to 1,000 feet.

Snow is expected to begin falling after 4 p.m. today in most of the Mother Lode, without significant accumulation until about 10 p.m.

After 10 p.m., the height of the storm is predicted, bringing 2 to 4 inches in Sonora, up to an inch in Valley Springs and 3 to 7 inches in Twain Harte.

Up to 2 feet could fall at DodgeRidge and Bear Valley ski areas.

Saturday could bring another 1 to 2 inches of snow to Sonora, Angels Camp, Valley Springs and Jamestown.

Temperatures are expected in the high 20s tonight in Sonora, dropping to the low teens Saturday night.

The Tuolumne County Office of Emergency Services has established warming shelters, primarily at the Tuolumne County Enrichment Center, formerly Adult Day Health Care, at 101 Hospital Road. It is available around the clock, including overnight stays from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., and will be available through Wednesday morning.

The Tuolumne County Library, at 480 Greenley Road, and Tuolumne County Senior Center, at 540 Greenley Road, also can be accessed during normal daytime hours.

No shelters were opened this morning in Calaveras County, but may open as needed. Call the Sheriff's Office at 754-6500 for the latest information on shelters.

The Office of Emergency Services recommends people have food and water sufficient for three days for each person in a household. The OES also recommends that people keep on-hand batteries, a battery-powered radio, medical supplies and prescriptions, warm clothes, blankets, firewood, generator fuel, pet food and a corded phone that plugs into the phone line with direct wiring.

At least three events scheduled this weekend have been canceled because of the expected snow, and more may follow.

"Putting on the Ritz in Manhattan," Sonora Ballroom Dancing's holiday party, will not take place as scheduled tonight at the Aronos Club in Sonora. A new date has tentatively been scheduled for Jan. 3. For more information, call 532-6901.

Sierra Waldorf School has postponed its second annual Elves' Faire for a week. Originally scheduled Saturday, the event will now take place Saturday, Dec. 14. For more information, call 984-0454.

The holiday potluck and dance planned Sunday by Just Dance in Columbia also has been canceled. For information, call 532-1859.