The prodigious storm that brought nearly an inch of rain to Fresno on Sunday left another gift overnight – snow along ridges on the west side of the central San Joaquin Valley.
The snow level dropped to below 2,000 feet overnight as the cold storm moved through the area, said Modesto Vasquez, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Hanford.
Vasquez said snow would be topping the highest peaks of the Diablo Range on the Valley’s west side, including Santa Rita Ridge, which stands at 5,000 feet near Coalinga.
Snow fell as low as 2,500 feet on the west side. However, the weather service isn’t sure how much, as it melted quickly and the sparsely populated area doesn’t have many spotters sending in information.
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Over on the east side, Ash Mountain, near Three Rivers in Tulare County, received 3 inches of snow at its 1,700-foot elevation.
Snow closed both the Highway 180 and Highway 198 routes into Sequoia National Park on Monday. The park reported snow as low as 1,600 feet and noted that several rock slides led to the closure.
The Generals Highway in Sequoia was reported reopened at 4 p.m. and both state roads were open as well, though chains were required on Highway 180 inside the park.
The heavy snowfall also forced about 700 middle and high school students to stay at Hume Lake Christian Camps an extra night after the weekend winter camp ended.
A Hume spokeswoman said the students remained at the camp Sunday night because roads were too snowy and slick for buses to navigate in trying to leave. The camp is located at 5,200 feet in Sequoia National Forest where about 18 inches of snow fell Sunday, she said.
The students were from all over California, including churches in the San Joaquin Valley. By Monday afternoon, the roads were cleared enough for the buses to roll out, she said.
The latest storm added to an above-average snowpack, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
As of Monday, the average water equivalent for the statewide snowpack was just over 20 inches – the largest since 2011.
At this time last year, the snowpack contained just 4.2 inches. In 2014, it was at 2.7 inches. The average for Feb. 1 is 18.3 inches.
The department will conduct a full survey of the Sierra snowpack on Tuesday. Although the current numbers are encouraging, the department noted that it would likely take much larger snowpack than normal to make any significant water gains after four years of drought.
The final snowpack survey will measure levels on April 1. The average for that date is 28 inches, but the state would need at least 42 inches to make strides in recovery.
Precipitation also continues to mount on the Valley floor.
As of 5 p.m. Sunday, Fresno had tallied 9.62 inches of rain for the season so far (Oct. 1-Sept. 30), which is nearly double the normal through January. Fresno’s average for an entire season is 11.5 inches.
The storm has pulled east of Central California and has left clear, cool conditions in its wake. The rest of the week should remain dry, the NWS said, with highs in the 50s.
Staff writers Rory Appleton and Lewis Griswold contributed to this story.