About four feet of snow expected by Saturday

What is being called “the biggest storm in two years” is forecast to dump as much as four feet of snow on the Sierra crest and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and several feet of snow in the town of Mammoth by the end of this weekend, according to forecasters.

The storm—actually two storms separated by one day—will come in beginning Wednesday afternoon and exit late Saturday, with some lingering snow showers lasting late into the weekend and possibly into Monday as well, according to the National Weather Service.

The first storm, beginning Wednesday and lasting into Thursday, will be the “primer” for the second storm, which is pointed squarely at Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra, said meteorologist Scott McGuire.

“The first storm should give you guys about 10 to 15 inches above 7,000 feet and about 18 inches on the Sierra crest,” he said. “Then, you’ll get a little breather on Thursday afternoon before the next, much larger storm comes in Friday and into Saturday, adding another several feet on the Sierra crest.”

The first storm will favor locations north of Mammoth, hitting the Tahoe region especially hard; the second will favor Mammoth and Mono County, he said.

Southern California, hit hard by the drought as well, is forecast to get some much-needed rain, as is much of the rest of the state, he said.

It won’t be enough to break the drought’s throttle—that will take at least four more similar storms—but it will help, he said.

As of Wednesday, Mammoth Pass was at 37 percent of normal for this time of year, or at about 12.4 inches of precipitation compared to the long-term mean of about 33 inches of precipitation for this time of year, according to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power data taken on Feb. 18.

A rough estimate for inches of water to inches of snow ratio is about a 1:12, or one inch of water equals about 12 inches of snow—a number that varies wildly, however, based on how warm the temperatures are at the time of the precipitation. A very cold storm creates more snow per inch of water; warmer storms less snow per inch of precipitation.

The pass was at 29 percent of normal for the entire winter; with only one more month of the season (March) left to make up for the missing snow.

In Mammoth, as the Times went to press Wednesday evening, the snow was coming down hard and beginning to stick to the bare, brown ground.

“This is the biggest storm in two years,” said Mammoth’s amateur weather forecaster Howard Sheckter. “All systems are go for one heck of a storm for Southern California. The recent burn areas of my hometown in Glendora should take extra precautions now by sandbagging areas around homes below canyons. The latest QPF (precipitation amounts) is up to 8.5 inches … in some of the coastal ranges of Pt. Conception and the foothills of both valleys. There may be more rain in some areas than has fallen in two years down there. Both the EC and GFS (weather models, one European, one American) are painting about three to four inches of water up on Mammoth Pass. And if it were not for the best of the storm being forced to the south of us, this would be one of the EPIC and memorable four to six foot dumps. Well, instead, we’ll have to settle for three to four feet over the crest and a couple of feet in town by weeks end.”

The wet system should exit by Monday, after which the dreaded high pressure ridge that has blocked most of the last two winters’ worth of storms will begin to reassert itself, McGuire said.

“There might be a few flurries next week, but most of the moisture will go north of you,” he said. “After that, the next chance for a significant break in the ridge is mid-March.”