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Record-Breaking Snow Buries the Sierra, Shuts Down Traffic

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Record-breaking snow is blanketing the Sierra Nevada. (AP File/Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)
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The Sierra is getting record-breaking snow and chains are required on the Highway 168 four-lane to Shaver Lake.

Meanwhile, rain continues to fall on the Valley floor and, after a brief clearing, is expected to return on Wednesday.

On Monday, the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, which is northwest of Lake Tahoe at Donner Pass, recorded 38.9 inches of snowfall over 24 hours.

That brought the December total to 193.7 inches at the lab — shattering the previous record for the month, 179 inches, set in 1970.

In addition to the Sierra, the current weathermaker is dropping snow in unexpected areas. For example, snowflakes were falling Tuesday morning in the Napa wine region.

The Fresno Forecast

The National Weather Service in Hanford says that Fresno skies will clear Tuesday afternoon followed by 20% to 80% chance of rain Tuesday night. You can expect patchy for Wednesday morning and a 90% chance of rain tapering to 20% Wednesday night.

Fresno’s rainfall for December stands at 3.43 inches after .29 of an inch was recorded on Monday. That’s nearly twice the December average of 1.77 inches. The seasonal total (July, 2021-June 2022) thus far is 5 inches. That compares to Fresno’s historic average of 3.66 inches through December.

The snowpack at Huntington Lake is 55.9 inches, according to the NWS.

As to what’s ahead, US Storm Watch reports, “We may again be measuring snow in feet in the Sierra” next week after the current storm ends.

Difficult Travel Across the Sierra

Blowing snow in the mountains of Northern California and Nevada has closed key highways, with forecasters warning that travel in the Sierra Nevada could be difficult for several days.

The Northstar California Resort in Truckee closed its mountain operations on Monday amid blizzard conditions. The ski resort has received more than 6 feet of snow in the last 48 hours, according to the resort’s Facebook post.

Search and rescue crews are looking for a missing skier who was last seen Saturday morning on a lift at the ski resort, KCRA reported.

The snowpack in the Sierra was at dangerously low levels because of the drought but the state Department of Water Resources reported on Tuesday that the snowpack was between 145% and 167% of normal across the range.

In Nevada, freezing air and blinding snow blasted across the northern part of the state on Monday, affecting travel and business, closing Sierra Nevada highway passes, delaying airport flights, and shutting state offices.

Interstate 80 remained closed due to poor visibility and heavy snow from the Nevada state line to Placer County. And, an avalanche blocked a state route that connects Tahoe City to some ski resorts in Olympic Valley.

You can check the latest California snow water equivalent levels at this link.

Water levels for major California reservoirs are at this link.

(Associated Press contributed to this article.)

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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