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'Big fat snow flakes': Bay Area gets its first dusting of the season

SF Gate logo SF Gate 1/22/2021 Amy Graff

National Weather Service technicians working on the radar on top of Mount Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains reported snow Friday afternoon.

"Big fat snow flakes," the weather service posted on Twitter. "Melting on the ground though."

With a flurry of storms taking aim at the San Francisco Bay Area, snow is in the forecast in coming days with light dustings expected on the highest peaks.

A blast of cold air moved into the region Friday afternoon behind a storm front that delivered rain Thursday night into Friday morning, and snow levels lowered to 4,000 feet Friday afternoon. Mount Hamilton, at 4,265 feet, and Mount St. Helena, at 4,327 feet, could also see a sprinkling of fresh powder.

The highest chance for heavier snow arrives Sunday into Monday, when a second shot of reinforcing chilly air is expected to punch the region. Snow will be possible at elevations above 2,000 feet. More peaks could see light dustings, including Mount Diablo in the East Bay and Mount St. Helena in the North Bay, and vast swaths of the Santa Cruz Mountains could be covered.

National Weather Service forecaster Drew Peterson said some roadways could be impacted, including portions of Skyline Boulevard that run through the mountains across Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

"At this point, I don’t think it’s low enough to impact Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains, but we'll be watching that closely," Peterson said.

Overnight temperatures Monday night into Tuesday are forecast to be chilly, with some inland valleys nearing freezing. "Even those temperatures along the coast and bay shore will hover around the 30s and 40s," Peterson said.

Snow isn't unusual on Bay Area peaks. A record-breaking 38.1 inches of snow were measured at Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton at 4,200 feet of elevation in February 2019.

This was the greatest monthly snowfall total on the San Jose mountain since records began there in 1948, according to the weather service. The second-snowiest month was January 1950 with 33.6 inches, and the third was March 1982 with 32 inches.

While the Bay Area saw a dry start to the 2020-21 rain season, the weather is shifting with three storms moving across the region in coming days. A wintry mix of chilly temperatures, heavy rain, isolated thunderstorms, small hail, high-elevation snow and the first atmospheric river of the season are all in the forecast. Read more about the upcoming weather forecast on SFGATE. 

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