First big storm of winter arrives Thursday

Wendilyn Grasseschi

March looks like it will come in like a lion as the first major winter storm of the season takes aim at the Sierra and much of the rest of the state, following one of the driest winters on record so far.
The storm, forecast to arrive today and dump between two and five feet of snow on the Sierra and Mammoth Mountain, is also forecast to cause an unusual amount of travel delays and other weather-related problems, not due to its size (it's actually a moderate storm by Mammoth standards) but because it will come in cold enough to push snow levels down to the desert floors of the Eastern Sierra - and even down to the Los Angeles area.
Hang on, the Dweebs said that winter would arrive in late February and March," said Howard Sheckter, Mammoth's weather forecaster. "This is a slow-moving storm. It will take at least two days to get through and it will come through in waves.
"This is a classic snow pattern, especially for the Northern Sierra," he said. "The air mass it is coming into is already cold and so there will be a lot of snow in places that do not usually get a lot of snow at one time like Reno and Carson City," he said.
"The big winds arrive Thursday night with peak winds Friday morning," Sheckter said. "With the very dry snow and lots of it, combined with high winds, blizzard conditions are likely to develop with possible road closures, sometime between Thursday night into Friday along Highway 395.
"This will be an epic weekend for Platinum Powder," he said
The National Weather Service stated the storm is one to take seriously, especially after the dry winter, where many people may well have never even got their cars or gear snow-ready.
"We strongly advise that people prepare for hazardous winter weather conditions, potential highway closures, and very long travel delays," said meteorologist Alex Hoon with the Reno office of the NWS. "This storm is the most impressive that we have seen this season."
By Saturday, he said, there will be around two to five feet in the High Sierra above 7,000 feet, with one to three feet of snow around the 6,000-foot elevation, including Lake Tahoe.
Another thing Hoon noted is that this storm is one of the first in more than a year, including even the epic winter of last year, where a big, wet storm also comes in cold and snowy, versus rainy and warm.
In other words, the storm will be more like the storms long-time Eastern Sierra locals are used to.
To get ready and to plan for travel, if people must travel anywhere near the Sierra between now and Sunday, Hoon said, it is good to consider the timing of the incoming storm waves.
"There are two main periods for concern; Thursday afternoon and night and Friday evening," he said. "Avoid traveling during these time frames if possible, especially for the Sierra.
"Snow will start in the Sierra (Wednesday evening) and intensify early Thursday-Thursday night, meaning Thursday and Thursday night will be the most dangerous time to travel in the Sierra, due to heavy snowfall rates of up to two to four inches per hour and strong winds producing very low visibility," he said.
Then, there will be a break, but just a small break.
"We should see a lull in the storm on Friday, but then see a second critical timeframe Friday evening and Friday night as a secondary wave moves through the region, bringing additional heavy snow to the region," Hoon said. "Widespread travel impacts are expected during these times."
Beyond that, the storm will clear out by sometime Saturday, with at least a few drier, quieter days through Tuesday.
"A shortwave system will dominate for Monday through Tuesday, with quiet weather conditions and then there are indications of another storm
approaching for the last part of the week," the NWS said.
Sheckter said that system will likely be warmer and, possibly, wetter.