A rainstorm came earlier than expected to the region Friday, and is forecast to last through the weekend.
As much as 0.5 to 0.75 inches of rain could fall throughout today and Sunday in Merced, according to meteorologist David Spector of the National Weather Service in Hanford.
“Most of the heavier precipitation is going to be north of Merced – Sacramento northward to Redding,” Spector said.
A half-inch of rain or greater would make the storm the biggest of the season, which isn’t saying much since to date Merced has had 1.5 inches. Accumulation in an average year would be 6.86 inches by this point in the season.
Rainfall late this week totaled 0.31 inches in Merced and 0.28 in Mariposa, and Los Banos got 0.51 inches through Friday morning.
The storm was lighter to the north and heavier to the south. Modesto has seen 0.24 inches while Madera felt 0.79 inches.
The storm brought snow down to about 2,500 feet in the Sierra Nevada a few miles east of Sonora. The snowpack for the central part of the range stood at 20 percent of average Friday, up from 18 percent on Wednesday, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Snowfall this week has been heavy enough in the Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite National Park to open that portion for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, according to Lisa Cesaro, public relations manager for the ski area.
Cesaro said the resort plans to open the downhill portion today, but a hill used for tubing has not gotten the volume of snow it would need to open.
The dry weather this year meant Badger Pass was offering some of its springtime activities, such as mountain biking and horseback riding, she said.
“I think that a lot of our visitors and even the local community is excited to have snow and be able to get out there and enjoy the skiing,” Cesaro said.
Badger Pass is at 8,000 feet elevation at its peak, so it could get 2 to 3 feet more of snow over the weekend, forecasters say.
Season passes, lift tickets and a webcam trained on the mountain are all available at www.yosemitepark.com.
The Dodge Ridge ski area could still be a few days away from its long-delayed opening.
Weekend snowfall could make the difference, officials at Dodge Ridge said this week. Bear Valley, east of Arnold, has been open with limited terrain but could expand with this week’s snowfall.
Once the weekend’s storm floats on, forecasts predict another dry spell, Spector said.
“It looks like the storm track is going to shift to the north of our area,” he said.
Temperatures will be higher than normal beginning today, when the high will be in the upper 50s. Temperatures will get up above 60 after that, Spector said.