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Another storm hitting southern Sierra. It’s been 20 years since we’ve seen one like it

Hail and snow rain down on Oakhurst during cold winter storm

The coldest storm of the winter season has brought hail in the afternoon and snow in the evening for Oakhurst.
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The coldest storm of the winter season has brought hail in the afternoon and snow in the evening for Oakhurst.

Another cold storm system is forecast to hit the southern Sierra Nevada this weekend, the likes of which the area has not seen since 1999, according to weather officials.

Andy Bollenbacher, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said this storm will be “as cold, if not colder,” than the storm that passed through the area on Monday and Tuesday, which rained down hail and snow across the San Joaquin Valley, foothills and High Sierra.

“We’re actually getting little pieces of the polar vortex coming down from over Canada. It’s a very cold continental air mass that’s going to come down this weekend and is really going to bring down the temperatures aloft over our area,” Bollenbacher said.

Temperature lows in the foothills are expected to reach below 30 degrees Sunday night and a winter storm warning is in effect for the region through 4 a.m. Monday morning.

The storm will be primarily affecting the southern Sierra Nevada, Bollenbacher said. Lows in the San Joaquin Valley are only expected to be in the low 40s.

Bollenbacher said areas above 8,000 feet in elevation can expect sub-zero temperatures throughtout the weekend. Sunday night and Monday morning, temperatures in the Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass could reach as low as -5 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Snow levels are expected to be as low as 1,000 feet in some areas. But unlike the storm earlier this week, foothill residents should not expect much precipitation, Bollenbacher said.

Oakhurst is forecast to receive about an inch of snowfall, Bollenbacher said, whereas it received about 6 inches on Monday and Tuesday. He said most communities in the foothills can expect a few inches of snow.

The San Joaquin Valley will receive even less precipitation than that, with a forecast of only half to two-thirds of an inch for Fresno, Madera, Merced and Kings counties.

“The system itself and the origin, it’s more of a continental air mass, if there is some surprise precipitation that comes with it, it’s going to be added moisture,” Bollenbacher said.

Areas in Yosemite National Park 6,000 feet and higher in elevation are expected to receive upwards of about 3 feet of snow. Areas near the crest and exposed ridgetops can expect winds as strong as 70 mph.

Heavy snowfall at higher elevations during the snowstorm earlier this week created issues within Yosemite and Seqouia National Forest. In the Seqouia National Forest, 120 visitors and Resort staff were snowbound at the Montecito Sequoia Lodge for five days before getting out Friday, while Yosemite was forced to close all of its roads due to the snowfall and fallen trees.

U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service crews rescued the stranded individuals Thursday evening, after clearing 8 miles of snow and more than 20 fallen trees on Generals Highway impeding access to the resort.

With another storm incoming, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office suggests “forest visitors stay out of the area until it is cleared and safe for people to return. More snow is expected this weekend that could add to hazardous driving conditions.”

Road conditions inside Yosemite remain just about the same. El Portal Road (Highway 140), Wawona Road (Highway 41), Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120 from the west) and all roads within Yosemite Valley require chains when traveling.

Badger Pass Road and Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area remain closed, although the ski and snowboard area is slated for a reopening on Friday, Feb. 15. All of the park’s campgrounds along with the Mariposa and Merced groves of giant sequoias are closed.

Those traveling on Highway 41 are required to use snow chains from 2 miles north of Big Cedar Springs through the Yosemite National Park entrance.

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