Storms are continuing to track north of the Central Sierra this week, with long term forecasts calling for weak La Niña conditions through winter 2017-18.
The La Niña outlook does not clarify if the Mother Lode will get a wet or dry winter this season. Last winter was the second-wettest on record in the Central Sierra in spite of long term forecasts for a dry winter.
On Monday, the first of two storm systems forecast this week was tracking north and it was expected to bring rain and snow to the Northern Sierra north of U.S. 50. Heaviest snows were expected along Interstate 80. There was a 40 percent chance of showers for the Sonora area Monday evening.
Closer to the Mother Lode, Carson Pass on Highway 88 was open Monday, according to Caltrans District 10 staff. Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 remained closed due to ice. Sonora Pass on Highway 108 and Tioga Pass on Highway 120 were both open, but there was a brush fire near Chris Flat on U.S. 395 just north of the junction with Highway 108.
Today, Tuesday Nov. 14, is supposed to be clear and mostly sunny with daytime highs around 60 in the Sonora area.
A wetter storm system is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, but it remains to be seen if it will track south far enough to impact the Central Sierra. Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Sacramento said Monday there is 70 percent chance of rain Wednesday in Sonora, a 100 percent chance of heavy rain Wednesday night, and a 90 percent chance of heavy rain Thursday.
At higher elevations, snow levels are expected to come down between 5,500 and 6,500 feet Wednesday, falling to around 4,500 feet by Thursday.
The brush fire at Chris Flat on U.S. 395 was estimated to be about 200 acres Monday afternoon between the junction with Highway 108 and the town of Walker, said Christine Knadler with Caltrans District 9 in Bishop.
For bigrigs and other large vehicles there were hard closures on U.S. 395 at the California-Nevada state line north of Walker and in Bridgeport. Eastbound motorists on Highway 108 will be able to go south on U.S. 395 to Bridgeport and beyond, Knadler said in a phone interview.
“Nobody is going north on 395 north of 108 right now,” Knadler said before 4 p.m. Monday.
Road closures due to the Chris Flat fire were likely to be extended until daylight Tuesday morning, Knadler said.
It’s early in the current water year, which started back on Oct. 1. But it’s been dry so far in the major watersheds that drain the westside Central Sierra.
A five-station index that includes Mother Lode watersheds from Calaveras Big Trees to Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valley shows precipitation since Oct. 1 totaling less than one inch, 0.7 inches. That’s 16 percent of average for the date Monday Nov. 13.