Light snowfall possible for Merced County

It may not be a "white" Christmas, but in Merced County it's about as close as we'll probably get.

The National Weather Service is predicting possible snowfall in Merced today.

The snowfall could happen thanks to a cold arctic air mass dropping into Northern California from Canada, according to Gary Sanger, National Weather Service meteorologist.

Sanger said an inch or more of snow could happen sometime around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. in the Merced area.

Even though the forecast may be welcomed by those looking to build a small snowman, officials are warning drivers to use extreme caution. "The roads are going to be slick and treacherous. Slow down and use common sense," Sanger said.

If snow does fall, Sanger said it will probably last a maximum of a few hours. "We don't expect the precipitation to stick around overnight," he said.

In addition to Merced County, 1 to 2 inches of snow may fall in the Stockton and Modesto areas. About 3 to 5 inches are expected at the crest of Diablo Range, 1 to 2 inches at Pacheco Pass.

Sanger said a cold mass, such as the one expected today, hits the region about once every 10 years. The last time a similar widespread cold freeze happened was in 1998.

The last time a significant amount of snowfall was reported in Merced was Dec. 20, 1998.

Today's high forecast is expected to reach 40. The low is expected to be 28 degrees.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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