The Eastern Sierra had its first (and hopefully not last) big storm of the year this week, beginning Tuesday night and projected to last through Friday morning.
As of press time Thursday, Mammoth Mountain reported 6 inches of snow on Tuesday, 40 inches on Wednesday, and 34 inches on Thursday by 3:30 p.m. for a total of 80 inches so far with more expected through the night.
At the Inyo County Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Dr. Aaron Steinwand of the inyo County Water Department said “as of Monday, we were on track (in regard to snowpack) with 2014-2015,” the driest year on record, at 22% of average for the season to date.
If the storms materialized (they have), “we might get to 60%” he added.
The cold temperatures brought the snow to the valley floor, with Bishop and the Owens Valley blanketed by Wednesday morning. Overall, Lunch guesses not quite a foot.
Weather forecasters warned of high winds through Friday morning, especially along the crest, creating difficult, whiteout driving conditions.
Local authorities were quick to close Highway 395 from the Nevada Border down to State Route 203 (Mammoth Lakes) on Tuesday night. The highway was expected to remain closed in both directions into Friday morning.
Caltrans was able to open the section from 203 to the bottom of the Sherwin Grade by 3 p.m. Wednesday, with R2 Chain controls and a CHP escort. However, the highway was still closed northbound from the bottom of the Sherwin grade to the the Nevada state line.
Anecdotally, The Sheet spoke to one intrepid soul who accessed Mammoth northbound via Lower Rock Creek.
Access to June Lake via Highway 158 was also closed at one point on Wednesday, and drivers have since been detoured around the lakes to get to town.
A short break is expected over the weekend, with storms predicted to pick back up on Monday and Tuesday and again later in the week.