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Cold front brings snow to the foothills

Winter returns in earnest for a day
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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A wave of cold air brought winter back to the foothills on Tuesday, leaving behind several inches of snow across the northern Sierra Nevada.

The National Weather Service of Sacramento issued a winter weather advisory from 3:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday for elevations above 2,000 feet, projecting two to four inches of accumulation in the foothills and six to 12 inches at higher elevations. Northern trans-Sierra passes bore the brunt of the precipitation in the afternoon, though areas of lower elevation like Grass Valley, Nevada City and Colfax received a dusting as well.

Weather service meteorologist Johnnie Powell said most of the storm would pass by Tuesday evening. There is a chance for more snow this weekend, but it would be “nothing significant,” he said.

Grass Valley area … is getting the most snowfall where foothills are concerned, and they’re getting anywhere from two to three inches. We don’t expect it to be much more than that in the Grass Valley area,” Powell said. “It’ll be there overnight, but it’ll be gone by (Wednesday) afternoon.”

He did not expect snowfall or travel difficulties at elevations below 1,800 feet on Tuesday, and his immediate forecast called for cool nights and mostly sunny days until the weekend.

“A front is moving through … so we’re looking at highs for Thursdays and Friday in the Auburn area probably getting back up to around the upper 50s, low 60s,” he said. “Mornings it will probably be in the low to mid-30s, but it’s is still the heart of winter, so it’s OK.”

Powell had no official data for the region, but said most communities have seen slightly below average precipitation this year.

For many local ski resorts, it has still been a massive improvement from last season.

General Manager Amy Ohran of Boreal Mountain Resort said this year’s snowfall has almost tripled the previous season – 243 inches since October, compared to 91 inches in the same time frame last year. She said season-to-date snowfall was “slightly below the average,” but cold temperatures have helped maintain the base.

“Last year was one of the lowest seasons of snowfall in recent history, so this year is a little bit more average,” Ohran said. “Early season was fairly erratic, stormy. However, we turned the corner in late December where we had storms that were very manageable followed by long periods of sunshine, which is kind of a skier’s ideal.”

Brooke Rose, a spokeswoman for Northstar California Resort, reported 288 inches of snowfall on Tuesday since Oct. 1, 2012; up from 108 inches in the same time frame last season. She said this week’s snowfall was a welcome addition, and the guests appreciated the turn in the weather.

“In the village right now, it’s snowing pretty heavily, but up top it’s also snowing quite a bit,” Rose said. “It’s nice and cold. Everyone who comes down keeps saying how shockingly cold it is outside compared to yesterday.”

Though he could not predict the next major storm, Powell said there was more to come for winter sportsmen.

“The rainy season is December, January, February, March, then after March – April 1 is the cutoff – that’s when 99 percent of your significant storms are in,” he said. “It’s only February, so more heavy hitters will come, then after April, the rain probably shuts off until Thanksgiving. We might get one or two fronts coming across.”