A well-timed storm that was poised to bring its main snowfall overnight Friday will make a white Christmas for anyone heading up into the Sierra.
The cold Pacific storm brought light showers to the central San Joaquin Valley Friday morning and they continued into the afternoon. By 4 p.m., Fresno Yosemite International Airport had received 0.12 inches of rain. The National Weather Service said the main thrust of the rain and snowfall would begin late Friday afternoon and continue well into the evening.
A winter weather advisory for the central Sierra Nevada took effect at 10 a.m. Friday and won’t expire until 4 p.m. Saturday. Chains are required for anyone heading into the Sierra or over the Grapevine or Tehachapi Pass. The California Department of Transportation issued tips on chain controls.
The snow line was to fall to the 4,000-foot elevation just before midnight, the weather service said. “Light snow may start accumulating in the foothills of Mariposa and Madera counties,” it said. Snow was also expected overnight on Tejon Pass on Interstate 5 in the Grapevine area, so a winter weather advisory was posted there.
National Weather Service meteorologist Cindy Bean, based in the Hanford office, said rain starting falling in Merced County around 4 a.m. Friday. The storm then headed south and east into Fresno County. By 10 a.m., the showers had reached Fresno County.
In Oakhurst, South Gate Brewing Co. employee Sabrina Coulombe reported heavy rain just before 10 a.m.
Farther south, Desmond TeNyenhuis, who works at Shaver Lake Liquor, said snow started falling there about 9 a.m.
“It’s not particularly hard, but it is snowing,” TeNyenhuis said. He added that business typically slows down when it snows.
The current storm is not as strong as the previous one, but still Bean expects most of the precipitation to help the mountain areas.
“We are still looking at 1 to 2 inches of liquid in the mountains,” Bean said. Most of that moisture will come in the form of snow.
Above 6,000 feet, 1 to 2 feet of snow is expected, with 8 to 16 inches of snow falling in areas around 4,000 feet.
Winds will also gust in the mountains up to 35 mph.
By the time the showers come to an end by midday Saturday, Bean said, western areas of the Valley would get about a quarter- to a half-inch of rain and the Valley’s east side would receive about half an inch.
Christmas Day will be dry, and so will the rest of next week as high pressure rebuilds and deflects any storms northward. Bean said the key weather feature will be thick fog in the Valley each morning of the coming week.
A sunny high of 51 degrees is predicted in Fresno for Christmas Day, with a low of 34 degrees. Similar temperatures will be in place for most of next week.