First winter-like storm forecast for weekend But not before elevated fire danger

Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter



Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra are on track this weekend for the first winter-like storm of the season, complete with plummeting temperatures, wind and most importantly, snow.
According to Mammoth forecaster Howard Sheckter, two cold, winter-like storms will arrive in the region between Friday and Monday and before they exit, combined they will likely drop between 12-15 inches of snow in the Sierra high country above 10,000 feet elevation, with lower amounts at lower elevations.

“All in all, we may end of with around 12 to 15 inches on top of the Mountain by Sunday night,” he said Wednesday. Being it is November in a strange weather year so far, he did, however, add a caveat. “However, there is still time to adjust,” he said.

The two storms will be very cold, which could enhance the snow production process, especially the second storm, arriving Sunday night.

“Note the second system is colder and the snow to water ratios will be higher Sunday and Sunday night,” he said. “Storm 2 is more of an inside slider type and so the Sierra crest usually does better than the West side of the Sierra crest. Remember, the 2nd system is colder and snow to water ratio’s will be higher Sunday and Sunday night. It will really be cold too with highs in the 20s on Sunday and lows in the single digits.”

What is the timing of the storms?

The first storm will arrive later on Friday but not before the incoming cold front that day clashes with the far-above normal temperatures that have marked the Eastern Sierra for the vast majority of the time since mid-August. That collision could create some problems ahead of the expected snow and cold.

That is because the collision of the cold front with the extremely warm air (for November) will create some wild and windy “Fire Weather Watch” conditions into Friday, according to the National Weather Service Office in Reno.

The same winds could also stir up a stubborn section of the Creek Fire that has resisted efforts to control it near the trail to Iva Belle Hotsprings and the Fish Creek/Cascade Valley/Pond Lily Lake area, fire managers said.

That said, there is still very little indication that the fire could create a danger to Mammoth, firefighters said Wednesday.

At press time, this edge of the fire was about five miles away from Mammoth and still growing. Extensive efforts to suppress the troublesome edge of the fire, using water drops and hand crews, were underway at press time.

Once the winds from the incoming cold front die down, the incoming first storm should arrive sometime on Friday, with the second storm arriving on Sunday. Fire managers said the two systems should help to gain control of the area of concern noted above.

So, what are the details of this first winter storm of the season?

“Warm and quiet weather continues into Thursday before a very strong cold front moves through the region, ending a long period of very above average temperatures,” the NWS said. “The cold front is forecast to move through the region on Friday with strong gusty winds ahead of the front, along with some rain and snow behind the front, especially in the Sierra. Daytime high temperatures in upper 60s to mid 70s through Thursday will see a sudden drop of 20-25 degrees by Friday.

“Ahead of the front, a period of strong gusty winds is expected Thursday night with breezy winds lasting through the day on Friday. The peak winds are expected overnight on Thursday with ridge winds gusting 80-100 mph and widespread gusts of 30-40 mph likely in the lower elevations. A Fire Weather Watch is in effect for the Sierra due to the very dry vegetation

“Precipitation will move into the Sierra early Friday morning behind the front with travel impacts from snow likely over Sierra passes and light accumulations probable into the lower Sierra valleys,” the NWS said Wednesday evening.

“Current projections are for the upper elevations to pick up a quick 2-4 inches of snow with a dusting to an inch or so in the lower elevations of the Sierra with this initial front.

The second storm, Sheckter said, will likely be the more snow-producing storm for the Mammoth area, as noted above.

What comes after this?

More unsettled and possibly cold and wet weather.

“Ensemble simulations are keeping it cold with the big pattern leaning towards a trough for the West,” the NWS said. “Plan on continued cool/chilly and unsettled weather next week.”

We will take it.