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Heavy rain, foothill snow: Northern California mountain highways shutting down from storm

Sacramento Bee logoSacramento Bee 11/27/2019 By Molly Sullivan, The Sacramento Bee

Welcome to Thanksgiving week.

Snow has already begun to fall at levels down to 1,000 feet and causing “nearly impossible” travel in parts of the Sierra on Tuesday afternoon. There are power outages from gusty winds and some areas are reporting localized flooding from heavy rain.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday morning issued a winter storm warning for much of Northern California expected to last until 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving – perfect timing for one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

Stay up to date with road closures here: California storm shuts Interstate 80 in the Sierra; I-5 at Redding closed to trucks.

Here’s what you need to know as the winter weather arrives:

When will the storm start?

It already has.

Heavy rain is falling on Chico, Oroville and spreading south toward Marysville and into the foothills, according to radar. The downpour is causing localized flooding in some areas, NWS said.

The National Weather Service’s winter storm warning started at 10 a.m. Tuesday. “Major travel delays” are anticipated in the Sierra Nevada and Coastal Range. There will be chain controls and “possible road closures,” the NWS said in a Tuesday morning tweet, due to “near white out conditions.”

Travel through the impacted areas is “highly discouraged.”

Most areas of Northern California will be on the receiving end of the huge storm between Tuesday morning and Wednesday. But the winter weather is expected to last into Thursday afternoon for the northern Sierra Nevada.

Don’t expect a long respite from the weather, though. A second storm is expected to hit over the weekend, bringing more travel delays for the Sierra at elevations 5,000 feet and above, according to a Tuesday afternoon tweet by the NWS.

How much snow will fall?

It’s not just the snow depths that will make this storm a doozy. It’s where the snow will fall.

Heavy snow started falling on Interstate 5 in Shasta County just after 10 a.m., creating near white-out conditions, according to traffic cam video. The current snow level is 1,000 feet.

Around 2 p.m., snow on Interstate 80 ground traffic to a halt at Dutch Flat near Alta where traffic was being held “due to multiple spinouts,” according to Caltrans. Westbound traffic on I-80 is also being held at Truckee, the CHP said.

Chain controls are in effect and travelers should “expect heavy delays due to weather,” Caltrans District 3 said in social media post.

The snow is now sticking to the Interstate above 2,500 feet creating “hazardous” travel conditions, NWS said in an afternoon update.

“Much worse conditions expected later this afternoon and tonight with nearly impossible travel with heavy snow and white out conditions,” NWS said in a tweet.

Snow is falling on Highway 50 at Twin Bridges, according to traffic camera video, and travelers are already turning around with chain control now in effect.

Snow is now accumulating along the roadways in areas above 2,500 feet, with 2 feet of snow reported along Interstate 5 near Simms, NWS added.

The threat of heavy snowfall has already prompted Caltrans officials to close Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4, Monitor Pass on Highway 89 and Sonora Pass on Highway 108.

“These are expected to be extended closures,” Caltrans said on Twitter.

Between 8 and 18 inches are forecast to fall above 1,500 feet elevation. That means foothill communities like Shingle Springs, Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City could all get snow.

Even more snow – between 2 and 3 feet – is expected to fall above 3,000 feet elevation and 4 feet is forecast for the higher peaks.

But that’s not all. Snow is even possible down to 500 to 800 feet elevation in the Redding area and other parts of the northern Sacramento Valley.

California getting hit by a ‘bombogenesis,’ or bomb cyclone

The National Weather Service in Sacramento posted a tweet Tuesday with satellite imagery showing a huge system barreling down on Northern California. That system, the NWS said, is called a “bombogensis.”

What’s a bombogenesis you ask? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a bombogenesis is “a popular term used by meteorologists ... when a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly intensifies.”

Sacramento rain forecast

The weather service is predicting rain to hit Sacramento late Tuesday morning, with a quarter of an inch of precipitation expected to fall during the day.

Wind is expected to intensify Tuesday night, reaching 34 miles per hour before easing a bit after midnight. Gusts could hit 48 mph and the chance of rain is 100 percent, according to the NWS. Another half inch of rain is expected to fall overnight.

Showers are likely Wednesday, with a chance of a thunderstorm after 10 a.m.

Weather on Thanksgiving Day

There’s a chance of showers in Sacramento on Thursday, “with thunderstorms also possible after 10 a.m.,” the NWS reported. But the chance of rain is 30 percent – decent news for all you Run to Feed the Hungry racers. The high for Thanksgiving is forecast to hit 49 degrees.


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