Forecasters say a pair of storms are likely to bring more rain and snow this week to the Mother Lode and the rest of the Central Sierra.

If their predictions are correct, foothill towns like Sonora could get 4 inches to 6 inches of rain by Saturday.

The first storm was expected to arrive Monday night or early Tuesday with a winter storm warning for the high Central Sierra from Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday. Snow levels could come down to 3,500 feet by Tuesday night. Elevations above 4,000 feet could a foot or more of snow.

The second storm is expected late Wednesday through early Saturday with more rain in the foothills, gusting winds, and more snow, especially at pass levels. Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 and Sonora Pass on Highway 108 could get 4 feet to 5 feet of snow, and Tioga Pass on Highway 120 could get 3 feet to 4 feet of snow.

Storm activity in late February and early March has boosted winter precipitation totals in the major river basins of Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. A three-day storm that ended March 3 pushed precipitation this water year over 50 percent of average in the Stanislaus and Tuolumne watersheds.

As of Monday, a five-station index that includes Calaveras Big Trees and Hetch Hetchy showed 15.3 inches of precipitation since Oct. 1. That’s 52 percent of average for the date March 12.

The extra rain and snow have not reduced concerns about whether California is entering another severe drought phase. As of March 6, nearly all of Tuolumne County was in moderate drought, the rest was abnormally dry, and all of Calaveras County was abnormally dry, according to scientists with the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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