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North Bay sees dusting of snow in higher elevations

North Bay area residents can expect more of the same through Wednesday, as well as cold temperatures.|

Sonoma County saw scattered showers, a bit of freezing rain and a dusting of snow Monday and Tuesday morning as California’s highest mountains were buried by more than 3 feet of new snow, closing highways and stranding holiday travelers.

After a weekend of on-and-off rain, meteorologists say North Bay Area residents can expect more showers through Wednesday and much colder daytime temperatures — in the 30s through much of the week.

Mount St. Helena, the region’s highest peak at 4,342 feet, recorded up to 6 inches of snow and is set to receive another 6 inches over the next three days, said Roger Gass, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

“We could see some snow down to 1,500 feet during the coldest time around Tuesday morning,” Gass said.

That could mean snow on the coastal hills of Sonoma County, including 2,200-foot-tall Pole Mountain, the tallest on the Sonoma Coast.

By Tuesday morning little change was expected from overnight lows to daytime highs, with temperatures across the North Bay forecast to hang in the 30s, meteorologists said.

As rain clouds clear out by Thursday and Friday and dry conditions return for the New Year’s weekend, nighttime lows are expected to dip further, possibly into the 20s.

Over the past three days Santa Rosa received a total of 1.25 inches at the Sonoma County Airport and up to 2 inches fell in the North Bay mountains, Gass said.

With no extended periods of heavy rainfall, widespread flooding concerns have not been an issue, thankfully, he added.

The storm system has helped water supplies diminished by two years of drought. Lake Sonoma, the region’s largest reservoir, had risen to 54.5% capacity Monday, while Lake Mendocino, which was at its second lowest level in August, is at 47.7% and will likely reach half full with runoff this week.

So far, Santa Rosa is at 190% of the average rainfall for the water year, which began in October, Gass said.

As far as the severe drought goes, “we’re still in one and we’ll remain in one,” Gass said. “It’s going to take another several months of above-average precipitation to get us out of a drought that’s been made over the span of several years.”

High tides and ocean conditions

In Humboldt County, high ocean tides are expected from Friday until Tuesday, according to National Weather Service officials, causing concerns over significant coastal flooding and high surf.

Weather officials were not too concerned about hazardous beach conditions in Sonoma County. However, gusty winds developing off the coastline could lead to waves up to 10 feet-high Monday night through Tuesday, said Rick Canepa, meteorologist for the weather service.

Gass advised beachgoers in general to always be vigilant during high tide, never turn their backs to the ocean and stay out of rocky areas.

Record December in Sierra Nevada

Meanwhile, blizzard conditions in the Sierra Nevada caused power outages and major road closures around Lake Tahoe, forcing ski resorts to close over the weekend and into Monday morning.

The gusty snow storm reduced visibility to nearly zero, as captured in a video by Palisades Tahoe, which was forced to extend its storm closure Monday due to avalanche concerns.

UC Berkeley’s Snow Lab, a research station nested in the Sierra Nevada, recorded a new record of 193.7 inches in December, smashing the previous December record of 179 inches set in 1970.

The lab said it’s possible they could even breach the 200-inch mark with snow rates going strong Monday morning.

The blizzard closed routes to Lake Tahoe, including Interstate 80, highways 50, 20 and 49, which all remained closed Monday afternoon due to downed trees, power lines and continued heavy snow, according to Caltrans District 3.

An avalanche also closed a portion of Highway 89 from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley Road, which was also closed from Truckee to Sierraville, according to the California Highway Patrol on Monday morning.

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

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

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