The second day of a three-day winter storm brought snow down to East Sonora and up to 1 foot of fresh snow in Twain Harte, and it continued snowing Friday in freezing conditions up Highway 108 between Confidence and Long Barn.
In downtown Sonora, it felt 10 to 20 degrees warmer Friday afternoon. Chances of snow in downtown Sonora during the remainder of the current storm depended on how cold it gets overnight Friday night into this morning.
“Thursday that first pulse came through warm,” Tom Dang, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said in a phone interview. “Then it came colder and it snowed more. Now we’re in the colder pattern and more showers are going to be coming down as snow, depending on elevation.”
Dang said in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, snow levels could drop to 2,000 feet by Saturday morning, but they are unlikely to come down as low as 1,000 feet.
There’s still the chance for 2 feet or more of new snow possible at higher elevations in the Central Sierra by Saturday night, when the current storm is expected to move farther east into Nevada. Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 could get 2.5 more feet of snow, Sonora Pass on Highway 108 could get up to 2 more feet, and Tioga Pass on Highway 120 could get 2 more feet as well.
Captain Neil Gamez with the Twain Harte Fire Department woke up Friday at his Mono Village place in East Sonora and found about an inch of snow had fallen overnight. He had to drive up Highway 108 to be on time for his 8 a.m. shift in Twain Harte.
“There was still quite a bit of snow on 108 and a number of unprepared drivers, with no chains,” Gamez said. “They were driving past the chain control at Soulsbyville Road. Up here the roads were still covered. Even with my four-wheel-drive it was hard to maneuver in town.”
Gamez was walking downtown Twain Harte in light-falling snow before noon Friday with a 120-channel portable radio, checking road conditions, snowloads on trees and rooftops, and making sure fire hydrants were accessible in spite of plowed snow banks up to 3 feet high and higher in some places.
“We haven’t had any major calls yet,” Gamez said. “No trees down, no major incidents.”
Yolanda and Petros Tatani drove up to Twain Harte from Turlock with their 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Eli.
“My son wanted to play in the snow,” Yolanda Tatani said. “We googled the map and it was the closest place with snow. We didn’t want to drive farther up in the snow with the child.”
Domanique Hernandez, 26, and her sister, Adriana Hernandez, 19, both of Stockton, walked the snowy streets of Twain Harte during a snow shower and took photos and video with their mobile phones. They said they came up the hill for their friend Julio Medina’s 28th birthday.
“We got a cabin,” Domanique Hernandez said. “I’ve been here before, but never like this, with the snow coming down.”
Asked to describe it, the sisters both responded at the same time, “It’s cold!”
Local temperature readings showed it was right around 30 degrees at noon in Twain Harte, and it stayed that cold into the early afternoon.
“It’s beautiful when the snow falls,” Domanique Hernandez said. “It’s serene, instead of the rain.”
“The bad thing is look at the cars,” Adriana Hernandez said. “They have less control.”
“It’s something different,” Medina, a resident of Manteca, said Friday. “It’s fun, the snow.”
Gripping and slipping
Most motorists in Twain Harte had tension-bound chains, straps or cables on their tires Friday. Some vehicles gripped, slipped and gripped again as they attempted to stop at slushy intersections.
Further up the hill, real estate agent Mark Pradenas sipped coffee from a paper cup out in the parking lot in front of Alicia’s Sugar Shack in Sugar Pine.
Pradenas said he’s lived for 36 years in Mi-Wuk Village, and this is one of the latest starts to snow season he can remember.
“It looks like it’s coming in strong now though,” Pradenas said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot visitors and tourists and cash revenue coming into our local community now.”
Between Mi-Wuk Village and Sierra Village, several people were out with snow shovels clearing driveways. One man used a push snow blower to send airborne streams of white stuff up onto banks of already plowed snow.
All along Highway 108 between Sierra Village and Long Barn, there were heavy, wet clumps of white clinging in patterns to bending boughs of dark, mute pine and cypress, weighing down their limbs with heavy loads of fresh-fallen snow.
Beyond the locked gate on the unplowed side road to Lyons Dam, a lone skier disappeared into the snow clad trees as more snow continued to fall.
Up at the Long Barn junction, a man made motions with a hand-scrawled portable sign with an arrow advertising “Ice Skate Here.”
At 2 p.m. a traffic crash involving a BMW X5 up against a tree about 7 feet off the road was reported on Highway 120 between the Rainbow Pool turnoff and the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park.
About 1:20 p.m., a traffic crash involving at least one vehicle was reported near O’Byrnes Ferry Road and Old O’Byrnes Ferry Road, and California Highway Patrol staff said it was “on the bridge.”
A few minutes earlier, people reported it was hailing on Highway 49 at Fraguero and Buckeye Mine Road, just above Mormon Creek between Shaws Flat and Tuttletown.
Just after 10 a.m., someone posted on social media a thank you to whoever plowed Big Hill Road so that Sierra Outdoor School buses could get down to Columbia without any hitches.
In Calaveras County between 12:01 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, CHP San Andreas personnel responded to a collision on Murphys Grade Road at Fairview Park at 12:49 a.m., and a vehicle got stuck in snow on Highway 4 and Beatrice Drive in Arnold, Officer Toby Butzler said.
Forecasters said storm watchers could expect a brief break before widespread precipitation was expected to resume Friday afternoon and Friday evening. Some foothill areas could see 6 to 12 more inches of snow, but again, that may not happen in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.
Regionwide for the Central Sierra, the current cold and snowy winter storm is expected to continue through Saturday night. Another storm could come in the middle of next week. Timing and details were uncertain as of Friday afternoon.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.