Cold, wet storm to bring rain, hail, snow to Bay Area and Northern California

Cold, wet storm to bring rain, hail, snow to Bay Area and Northern California
Pedestrians carry umbrellas on Powell Street in San Francisco earlier this month. (Paul Chinn / San Francisco Chronicle/AP)

Already thoroughly soaked over the past few days, Northern California is expected to get hit with a cold, wet storm this weekend that will bring one thing weather-watchers have been hoping for: snow in the Sierras.

Starting early Sunday, the Bay Area and much of the northern part of the state will see another round of rainstorms, with snow levels as low as 6,000 feet in mountain areas.

“We’ve had a couple of storms roll through, but tomorrow’s is a bit different,” said Travis Wilson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sacramento. Recent storms have brought subtropical moisture — and warmer-than-usual temperatures — with them, Wilson said.

In fact, low temperatures for several Bay Area cities were so mild Saturday that they broke records. Temperatures ranged from 61 degrees in San Francisco to 62 in San Jose.

Sunday’s storm, which will carry cold air originating from the Gulf of Alaska, is expected to bring the first major snowfall of the water year, which started Oct. 1.

Some parts of the region also may see thunderstorms and even hail.

“We’re expecting six to 12 inches of snow around the passes, which is quite a bit, and it’s an early-season storm, so it might catch a lot of people off-guard,” Wilson said. 

The Bay Area and other nearby parts have had a wetter-than-normal October, with rainfall totals in places like Santa Rosa and Oakland at more than 300% above the normal range.

Downtown Sacramento, with 3.73 inches of rain this month, has seen its wettest October since 1962.

And while Southern California precipitation totals are still lingering around 60% of the average, the northern Sierra region has reached 360%, though most of that has been from rain.

Sunday’s expected snowfall will help jump-start the Sierra snowpack, Wilson says, a crucial factor in easing the state’s ongoing drought. Many of the state’s major networks of dams and reservoirs are in this region and provide water to other parts of the state.

Meanwhile in Southern California, the tail end of the same weather system will sweep through coastal areas, bringing scattered showers mostly to the northern part of Santa Barbara County, and a 30% chance of Sunday morning showers in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The weather will clear up for the start of the workweek in the Southland, with highs expected to hit the mid- to upper-80s by Friday.

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