The Sierra sees its first big storm of the 2017-18 season… on March 1
The first truly massive storm of the 2017-18 season hit the Sierra beginning on Thursday, March 1. As of press time, the storm was predicted to hammer the Sierra for a solid 24 hours or more, with Chris Smallcomb of the National Weather Service in Reno predicting “high freakoutness” on his “freakout chart” for Thursday and Friday, March 1-2.
“…Don’t even think about traveling over the Sierra until Friday mid-day at earliest, safer to wait until Saturday p.m.,” Smalllcomb wrote.
“This is a once-a-winter kind of event,” Zach Tolby, a meteorologist with the Reno NWS, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
On a positive note, Smallcomb predicted that the storm was likely to boost the abysmal Sierra snowpack a good 10-15 percent if the weather materialized as hoped.
Before the onset of this storm, the Weather Network reported that the statewide snowpack was at just 19 percent of normal. A snowstorm this past Monday, February 26, resulted in a Tuesday powder day at Mammoth, but, the California Department of Water Resources reported, it only upped the Sierra snowpack to 23 percent of normal. For context, on March 1, 2017, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the Sierra Nevada snowpack was at 185 percent of normal.
The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center posted on its Avalanche Advisory for Thursday, March 1 that avalanche danger was “high” for the areas around Mammoth Lakes.
As of Thursday, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area reported 9-14 inches of new snow with more falling, and predicted a daytime accumulation of 12-18 inches. As of 2 p.m. on Thursday, Mammoth has reported a season total of 115 inches at McCoy station and 200 inches total at the summit.
As for a “Miracle March,” (or a #MammothMarch, the hashtag Mammoth Mountain has already began utilizing on this, the first day of the month) the NWS “freakout chart” issued by Smallcomb predicts a gradual warming trend, but posits that temperatures will remain at or below seasonal norms through March 7.
Beyond the weeklong forecast, things get a little harder to predict. Smallcomb predicts “one or two weak to moderate storms into mid-March,” with things “trending warmer” moving into the middle of the month.