North Bay wakes up to rare sight of snow at lower elevations, up to 4 inches in Cloverdale

A winter storm that rolled across the North Bay and North Coast brought snow, rain, some hail and high winds Thursday night into Friday morning, bringing at least 4 inches of snow to Cloverdale.|

Icy roads are expected to stick around Saturday after a winter storm rolled across the North Coast and North Bay and brought snow, rain, lightning, some hail and high winds Thursday night into Friday morning.

Overnight temperatures are expected to dip into the 30s early Saturday — low enough to create dangerous conditions on roads covered in rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service.

Conditions are expected to be “messy” and area residents are encouraged to stay home Saturday, said Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office in Monterey.

Cloverdale residents woke up Friday morning to up to 4 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s very noteworthy,” said Sarah McCorkle, a meteorologist with the weather service’s office in Monterey.

It’s remarkable anytime there’s snow below 1,000 feet of elevation, she added.

Not since 2011 has snow reached below 1,000 feet of elevation in Sonoma County, according to the weather service. Though, McCorkle said, it’s hard to say for sure as her office doesn’t directly measure snow or keep snow records.

At higher elevations, there was anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow, she said.

Cloverdale Unified School District was closed Friday, according to an announcement from the Sonoma County Office of Education, due to hazardous conditions related to the storm.

In addition to the snow, Sonoma County received ¾ to 1½ inches of rain, McCorkle said. The Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa recorded 1.3 inches of rain by Friday morning.

Conditions slowly improved Friday morning as the storm system moved south.

People in the North Bay can expect some lingering showers throughout Friday with the chilliest temperatures of the week expected Friday night into Saturday morning, McCorkle said. Lows will drop to around 28 degrees in the interior valley.

Leading up to the snowy conditions, about 50 people Wednesday and 61 people Thursday sought respite from the cold at the warming center inside Catholic Charities’ Caritas Center in downtown Santa Rosa.

The nonprofit also transported four people who were outside the warming center to Sam Jones Hall, Catholic Charities’ CEO Jennielynn Holmes said Friday.

The temporary, drop-in site, which opened Wednesday in anticipation of the winter storm, will remain open through 9 a.m. Saturday.

Another 60 to 70 people are expected to stop into the center overnight Friday, Holmes said.

Holmes said she was not aware of any emergencies related to exposure and her team hadn’t come across any exposure incidents during its outreach work this week.

She had not received notice from Santa Rosa that officials planned to extend the activation of the warming center, she said.

“We far exceeded the number of times we activated last year,” Holmes said. “We’ll see over the next couple of days if the weather continues but this has definitely been an unprecedented weather season this winter so we’re continuing to monitor.”

It’s the fifth time this season that Santa Rosa has activated the warming center for a total of 15 nights, including this latest three-night activation, Santa Rosa’s homeless services manager Kelli Kuykendall said.

Meanwhile on the roads, commuters encountered adverse conditions beginning Thursday evening, particularly at higher elevations — like Petrified Forest Road leading into Calistogy, Highway 101 in northern Mendocino County and around Sonoma Mountain.

“We’re still seeing impacts on Twitter of bad road conditions,” McCorkle said Friday morning. “Just be careful driving.”

There were no major highway crashes due to weather overnight Thursday, California Highway Patrol Officer David deRutte said. Highway 128 was closed out of Cloverdale, as well as Ida Clayton Road in Calistoga. St. Helena Road and Petrified Forest Road in Santa Rosa reopened Friday morning.

But as conditions get colder, slushier and icier on some roads Friday, “road cruisers are out there doing everything they can to keep them open,” deRutte said.

A large section of Highway 101 was closed from late Thursday into Friday afternoon between Willits and Cummings in Mendocino County.

On Thursday evening, motorists traveling south along Highway 101 said heavy rain was falling near Windsor and that while traffic was light on the highway, there was still concern about hydroplaning as the roads were very wet.

Water could be seen pooling under some overpasses and motorists were traveling at or below the 65 mph speed limit along that stretch of Highway 101.

Toward the north, snow that began falling earlier in the day Thursday continued through the night, particularly in the Coverdale area where there were reports of downed trees and snow accumulation that measured about 1½ inches.

The storm system was “pretty dynamic” and included reports of some lightning and thunder around the North Bay, said Roger Gass, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Monterey.

“Folks traveling up north into Mendocino County are obviously encouraged to drive with extreme caution,” Gass said.

Wind gusts have been reported of between 45 to 55 mph, he said, adding, “That definitely is causing concerns about downed trees, especially given that the ground is saturated.”

In Lake County, authorities announced all public schools would be closed Friday due to the wintry conditions. State preschools run by the Lake County Office of Education would also be closed to students.

The California Highway Patrol issued traffic hazards Thursday night for Highway 128 between Cloverdale and Boonvile, 28 miles to the north in Mendocino County.

At about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, CHP dispatchers, according to the agency’s traffic website, began receiving calls about as many as seven vehicles stuck in snow along Highway 128, as well as a number of downed trees in the area that were blocking the road.

There were reports of motorists attempting to turn around, while others were stuck in the snow.

Shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday, authorities shut down the road just west of North Cloverdale Boulevard, according to the CHP.

There were more reports of people trapped by downed trees along Highway 128 between Boonville and the county line.

Press Democrat staff writers Jeremy Hay, Colin Atagi and Paulina Pineda contributed to this story.

Alana Minkler

Education Reporter

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering education, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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