Friday Feb 25 2011
Snowpocalypse in Auburn? Not now, says Mother Nature
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Torrential rain pounding Auburn overnight gave way to snow and sleet late Friday morning while communities higher in the Sierra were reporting more than 2 feet of snow in a storm that could have been much worse. Originating in the Arctic, the rain rolled in starting Thursday afternoon, with high winds dropping trees and branches and flooding reported on Placer County roads. National Weather Service forecasters had predicted as much as 8 inches of snow in Auburn's upper elevations but the short snowstorm Friday left only a trace - and much of that had melted by noon. The snow started to fall at about 10:30 a.m. Friday in Auburn, depositing a thin, wet layer on area roads as cooler temperatures moved in. By 11:20 a.m. the snow had turned to rain again in Downtown Auburn, at about 1,200 feet. By afternoon, the sun was shining sporadically as more high clouds moved through the foothills. While Auburn had a half-hour dusting, Friday’s storm was also about strong winds, heavy rain, blackouts affecting thousands in upper regions of the county and slick roads. Brian Roach had already dug his in-laws out of 2½ feet of snow in Colfax Friday morning and had returned to his Auburn home to find a tree limb had crashed down on a power line just feet from his kitchen window. The tree smoked as a Pacific Gas & Electric crew stood by to separate the limb and the wire after power was cut. The storm was creating transportation problems for Julie Koon, who was desperately trying to find a way to get out of her house in the isolated, snowbound Cape Horn area, 8 miles east of Colfax. She had a surprise wedding proposal dinner for her daughter at an Auburn restaurant to get to by Friday evening. “I’m looking for a way out today, even if it means Amtrak stopping on its route,” Koon said. At 10 a.m., Foresthill's main business section had already recorded close to 2.5 feet of snow. The business section lies at about 3,000 feet and lower levels were also experiencing a deep dump of wet "Sierra cement." Forest Cottage Preschool, off Foresthill Road, at 2,800 feet, had about 6 inches of snow on the ground Friday morning, said pre-kindergarten teacher Susan Steelman. Power was out at the pre-school and in the Todd Valley subdivision nearby, she said. Just one of the school's 18 students showed up in the morning. While Steelman said it was difficult to get out of the hilly Todd Valley subdivision to arrive at school in the morning, Foresthill Road was relatively clear of the white stuff to the 2,800-foot level. "There's a lot of traffic up and down the hill and it looks as if the snow is starting to turn to rain," Steelman said. "That's good as long as it doesn't freeze up and turn to black ice later on.” The snow started falling in flurries Thursday in Foresthill and the storm began to deposit about an inch an hour starting around 5 p.m. Rain was also reported to be falling in Colfax shortly before 10 a.m. after a night of snow. California Highway Patrol Officer Dave Martinez said no big rigs were being let through on eastbound Interstate 80 at Applegate while other vehicles were being allowed to continue on. The tractor-trailers were a common sight along the I-80 corridor west of Applegate Friday morning, parked on shoulders and in parking lots. Trees were falling in the storm. A combination of rain and heavy winds caused a tree to come down on Locksley Lane, just east of Highway 49 at 8 a.m. The road was clear again about a half-hour later. About the same time, a large tree limb fell on the roadway near Mount Vernon Road and Bald Hill Road. That was also cleared up within about half an hour. And as the flakes flew Friday morning, several spinouts were reported on roads throughout the area, Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Reed said. Have you experienced serious storm damage or have photos of the snow or emergency situations in the Journal coverage area? You can post your comments or photos at Auburnjournal.com or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.