Dennis’ Local Almanac


Stormy March

Here on Sunday evening (March 3), the big story focuses on the blizzard of the modern ages over a major part of the Sierra Nevada. The Sierras have had their share of heavy snowfall events over the decades, but this one put all other single event totals to shame with amounts in some areas totaling up to 10 feet or more just since late last Thursday! That’s 120 inches from one single blizzard in less than four days with winds over 90 mph.

That total exceeded a whole season’s worth (on a couple of occasions) when there was a statewide drought going on. Visibility was less than 20 feet at times. I have an old buddy that has owned a ski lodge in Mammoth Lakes for nearly 50 years, so he’s seen his share of intense storms, but he’s never seen a single storm hammer the place like this one.

As one can imagine there are literally dozens of avalanches popping up all over the place, putting even the most avid ski and snowboard folks to pass on this one. It’s not unusual for one single storm to drop as much as four or even five feet of the white stuff but 12 feet in one weekend! That report of 12 feet came in at 7 p.m. on Sunday out of Donner Pass. At 7:30 p.m., they had a brief break in the action, but more snow was on the way for Monday and today. However, amounts aren’t supposed to be anywhere near what they just saw – more like three more feet.

This monster attacked from a totally different direction than a lot of previous storms that originated in subtropical regions when snow levels were way up there at 6,000 to 7,000 ft. This storm came straight out of the northern Gulf of Alaska and morphed into what is known as a cyclone bomb, intensifying rapidly as it plowed southward. It set its sights on the northern half of the state of California and then the main area of low pressure nearly stalled off the coast of British Columbia. Pulses of intense weather focused on the Sierra Nevada with low snow levels at 1,500 to 2,000 ft. The Sierra foothills even got in on the action with up to three feet at just the 2,000-foot elevation. The foothills eastward down the road on Highway 80 were covered in white by early Saturday. This powerful cyclone was in no hurry to move on and that’s why snow totals became history makers.

Blizzards are the most dramatic and perilous of all winter storms, characterized by low temperatures and by strong winds bearing large amounts of snow. Most of the snow accompanying a blizzard is in the form of fine, powdery particles of snow which are whipped in such great quantities that at times visibility is only a few yards.

Blizzard warnings are issued when winds with speeds of at least 35 mph are accompanied by considerable falling or blowing snow and temperatures of at least 20 degrees F or lower are expected to prevail for an extended period. Severe blizzard warnings are issued when blizzards of extreme proportions are expected and indicate winds with speeds of at least 45 mph – plus a great density of falling or blowing snow and a temperature of 10 degrees F or lower. That’s when visibilities are down to just a few feet. Forget about driving or even going outside when it’s that bad.

This upcoming week has some showery periods with convection for Wednesday and Friday with continued cooler than normal temps. We will see some sunshine today, Thursday and Sunday.

Until then, ALOHA!

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