SAN FRANCISCO —
The storm deposited a foot of snow for Lake Tahoe ski resorts that have relied on man-made snow for much of the season, and elevations above 7,500 feet were expected to get another foot or two by Sunday, said Holly Osborne, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento.
The additions, which followed some brief periods of snow in the last week, already have improved the outlook for the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides about a third of California’s water supply. When state surveyors last checked on Jan. 30, the snowpack was at 12 percent of normal for this time of winter. By Saturday, it was at 17 percent of normal.
“At least we are getting something versus nothing,” Osborne said.
While the fresh snow delighted skiers and resort operators, the Sierra Avalanche Center warned Saturday that the danger of avalanches, both natural and human-triggered, was high in a wide swath of the central Sierra Nevada because wind had blown new snow onto weak layers of existing ice and rock.
Tiffany Morrissey, a Silicon Valley family doctor who was working on ski patrol at the Alpine Meadows resort Saturday, said several lifts and runs were closed as a safety precaution but that cars carrying people wanting a taste of fresh powder filled up the parking lots.
“It’s a heavy, wet snow, and because of the avalanche danger the lines are pretty long. But you could hear people having a great time out on the mountain,” Morrissey said.
Forecasters hope the storm portends an end to the persistent dry weather that has plagued the state for months and contributed to its drought emergency. Light precipitation is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, and another storm is possible next weekend.
Southern California was expected to be mostly dry. Forecasters said measureable rain over the weekend likely would not fall farther south than San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties as a ridge of high pressure pushes up from the south.