February 28, 2014

Storm brings light snow to Yosemite Valley

The recent episode of rain was a welcome sight for many Mercedians on Wednesday, but residents a little closer to Yosemite Valley woke up Thursday to hail and even some snow.

Wednesday’s rain was a welcome sight for many Mercedians, but residents a little closer to Yosemite Valley woke up Thursday to hail and even some snow.

The storm dumped about two feet of snow in the Yosemite Valley, said meteorologist Brian Ochs of the National Weather Service in Hanford. Ochs said it wasn’t enough to cover the Valley floor, mainly staying at an elevation of 6,000 feet or more.

Kari Cobb, park ranger and spokeswoman for Yosemite National Park, said Badger Pass got about six inches of snow. Cobb said the mild winter season has brought the park a lot more visitors than usual.

“We have had more visitation than normal just because there hasn’t been a lot of snow on the Valley floor,” Cobb said. “It means that Yosemite Valley is accessible to a lot of visitors, and they don’t have to worry about carrying tire chains or driving on the slippery roads.”

Mariposa received about two inches of rainfall, Ochs said, Merced got nine-tenths of an inch and Los Banos had eight-tenths of an inch.

The forecaster predicted more rain for Saturday, but dry weather is in store for Mariposa and Merced counties on Sunday and Monday.

Ochs said there will be a 20 percent chance of rain in Merced and Los Banos by Wednesday next week.

A benefit of the brief rainfall is the waterfalls at Yosemite National Park are flowing more now than in previous seasons. “People go to Yosemite to see the waterfalls,” said longtime business owner Harold Casto of the Casto Oaks Fine Wine & Art.

Casto, 76, said he’s hoping the small break in rain will bring more tourists to his Mariposa winery. “A few days back, we had a 70 degree day and we had quite a lot of people from Clovis and Fresno,” Casto said. “But today was very slow and I actually closed early and came home.”

Kathy McCorry, chief operating officer of the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce, said traffic at the visitors’ center seemed normal Thursday, though a few people asked if they will need chains to drive into Yosemite.

“I’m hoping next week everybody will be hitting Badger Pass because it should be beautiful after this snow,” McCorry said. “We had a little bit of hail, but it was pretty short lived. Most of the rain hit us overnight and we had a lot of thunder and lightning.”

By early Friday morning, the weather service is forecasting the Merced area will get half an inch to three quarters of an inch of rain when that system rolls through the region.

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