An approaching moisture-laden storm is expected to track farther south in the Central Sierra than previous patterns this winter and could bring up to 2 inches of snow today to Mother Lode foothill towns like Sonora.
If forecasts are correct and it does snow 2 inches or more in Sonora, this could be the most significant snowfall the city has received in the past four to five years.
The last time it snowed 2 inches or more in Sonora was Dec. 7, 2013, when 3 to 4 inches fell and some locations below 1,000 feet elevation got dusted. The Union Democrat reported 4 inches of snow in downtown Sonora that morning.
Ten months earlier, at least 3 inches of snow fell in downtown Sonora on Feb. 19, 2013, and headlines in this newspaper called it “Snowmageddon” and “Snowverwhelmed.”
The heaviest snowfall on record for Sonora is 11 inches measured Jan. 1, 1910, said Craig Shoemaker, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento.
Now forecasts are calling for as much as 6 inches of snow at Pinecrest and Calaveras Big Trees and other places above 4,000 feet elevation, Shoemaker said Wednesday in a phone interview.
For Sonora, the snow is expected to fall late Thursday afternoon and into Thursday night, Shoemaker said.
“There’s not going to be that much snow overnight,” Shoemaker said. “Maybe above 4,000 feet through 10 a.m. But the heavier snow, more significant snow, moves in after about 2 p.m. Most of the accumulating snow in Sonora should fall after 2 p.m.”
North to south along Highway 49, from San Andreas through Angels Camp to Columbia, Sonora and Jamestown, overnight lows for Thursday are expected just below freezing, around 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other National Weather Service forecast tools show that, as of Wednesday afternoon, the outlook for San Andreas on Thursday includes 40 percent chances of rain or snow, then rain showers followed by snow showers.
For Angels Camp, there’s also a 40 percent chance of rain or snow followed by snow showers. For Columbia and Sonora, chances of snow Thursday afternoon are 60 percent, with 40 percent chances of snow showers Thursday night.
Regionwide up and down the Central Sierra, forecasters are saying there's a likelihood for snow dustings down to 1,000-foot elevations. Higher in the mountains, Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 could get 6 to 8 inches of snow, Sonora Pass on Highway 108 could get 4 to 6 inches, and Tioga Pass on Highway 120 could get 3 to 4 inches.
A winter weather advisory for snow and slippery road conditions is in effect for Mother Lode elevations above 2,000 feet from 9 p.m. Wednesday night to 4 a.m. Friday.
This weekend the outlook remains cold and clear to mostly sunny, with overnight lows just below freezing for Highway 49 foothill towns from San Andreas to Jamestown, and daytime highs in the 50s.
There are chances of additional weather systems next week, but timing and amounts remained uncertain as of Wednesday afternoon.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.