Sunday, February 15, 2009

West Coast Winter Storm

The snowfall on the Sierras here in February 2009 has been silly…and it looks like the west coast is about to get another solid dump as a new winter storm moves in over the next 24 hours.

Just to put it in perspective...we have already seen several feet of snow all over California and Oregon over the last couple of weeks. Mammoth for example has had nearly 70” of snow so far this February, which equals what they are reporting for all of January 2009. The total base for the mountain is averaging between 10-15 feet.

We have already seen several inches of new snow over the last couple of days but the real storm is just starting to arrive and the current forecasts are calling for nearly 1-2 FEET of new snow throughout most of the California Sierra Nevadas over the next 24 hours. Check out the latest National Map from NOAA and the National weather service…just a quick FYI…it is never good to see “red” colors on these maps.

NERD Alert – (skip this part if science and weather stuff gives you a headache). This storm is another one of those cold/wet – warm/wet mixes that I have talked about over the last couple of months. Basically you are getting a nice cold low from the North and a very warm, moisture laden, low-pressure from the mid-latitudes. When these two mix it is like throwing gasoline onto a fire…all the latent heat energy from the warm storm cools rapidly and the air looses its ability to hold water vapor…and bingo, shit (rain, snow, hail, smog) starts falling from the sky. When we have a really dynamic mix of those two storms (like we do right now) over the mountains it cools and lifts so rapidly that it snows, a lot, like “holy crap” a lot. Check out the water vapor image…that is the storm just off the coast.

Anyway…So with this new storm we can expect at minimum 6-10” for most west coast ski resorts.

Snowfall in California looks like it will be heavier since the lows are mixing right around central California. Southern California ski areas can expect nearly 10-15” of new snow. So can Mammoth and other Central California areas. Northern Cal around Shasta and the Oregon border will have similar snowfall totals…but it may be a bit lighter in the Tahoe area for some reason. With this much snow getting to the mountain and the actual “ski conditions” are going to be pretty nasty for the next couple of days. We may want to hold off till midweek, or at least until the heavy part of the storm blows through.

Oregon resorts like Mt Hood and Mt Bachelor have seen nearly 20”+ of new powder since last Tuesday…and they have more scheduled for the next 24-36 hours. It won’t be as heavy as California but those regions can expect another 5-10” as well.

Eventually this storm does move out east and drops some snow on the Rockies…I actually expect more snow in Colorado and Utah from this bad boy…but Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming should all see some new powder as well.

The East Coast/Great Lakes region will have some of this storm later this week…closer to Wednesday/Thursday for the GL…and Thursday/Friday for the NE…but the majority of the energy is going to get pushed up into Canada and so it won’t do as much damage as we are going to see out west.

Long-range is showing another low holding off the West Coast later this week…maybe even another mix of warm/cold lows. The current forecast isn’t very clear on when it will actually start to make landfall but we could see some more new snow early next week.

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