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Sierra sees snowiest day of the season from brief, forceful spring storm

Roadways mostly clear of snow await vehicle traffic after a weekend storm in mountainous terrain
Caltrans crews managed to clear roadways Sunday at the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 89 in Truckee, after a weather system anticipated by a weather service winter storm warning brought nearly 2 feet of snow to the state’s Sierra Nevada. | Source: Courtesy Caltrans

UC Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Lab says it has a reason to celebrate after a weekend storm brought the most snow to date, topping off a late-season surge.

After storms in late February and throughout March, readings at the lab surged from 102% of normal for March 1 to 110% of normal for April 1.

Accordingly, lab observers seemed excited by the prospect of precipitation that forecasters said could bring between 9 and 18 inches of new snow Saturday through Sunday.

"Did anyone have the snowiest day of the 2023/2024 season being in May on their winter bingo card?" the lab posted to its X account Sunday morning, tallying the storm's total of 26.4 inches (or 67 centimeters) to mark the season's snowiest day to date. 

The amount pushed the March 3 total to second place by 2.6 inches (6.5 centimeters) and boosted the lab's totals to 157% of median snow water equivalent to date. "A nice change of pace to an OVER-performing storm for the season," the lab said.

Although one should never say never, a building high-pressure ridge off the California coast is expected to bring a warming weather trend and push away any systems like the one that just sprinkled the state.

Elsewhere in the Sierra, the National Weather Service's Sacramento office shared multiple multi-inch totals, including 31 inches at Lower Lassen Peak and 22 inches at the Soda Springs Caltrans Station. The weather service urged drivers to exercise caution after canceling a previously issued winter storm warning Sunday morning.

Palisades' X account shared a boastful post marking its own 26-inch total of snow Sunday, complete with a "#SpringSkiingCapital" hashtag: "Our teams are hard at work this morning getting the mountain ready for one of the best May powder days in recent memory, but some patience will be required as we do expect delayed openings."

Closer to home, the weather service's San Francisco office noted that Saturday's 0.90 inches of rain at its downtown San Francisco station has already topped a monthly average of 0.70 inches, with rain totals nearly approaching 2 inches in Santa Cruz County's Ben Lomond and atop Marin County's Mount Tamalpais. 

George Kelly can be reached at