The green hills of winter turned white last week, as accumulating snow in the hills and mountains closed roads, disrupted public and private transportation, and knocked out power for thousands. Even beaches were covered along the coast, and cold weather combined with thunderstorms as February said farewell.
The hills east of San Jose and mountains of San Benito County got a last dose of white stuff amid more windy, dangerous conditions early this week.
The National Weather Service said the snow would deepen in the hills of eastern Santa Clara County and the East Bay, plus the Diablo Range and the Santa Lucia Mountains, the Los Padres National Forest and Pinnacles National Park.
Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose reported nearly two feet of snow from the storms of Feb.23-26, and as of Monday, the road to the observatory was still closed by snow.
The weather service predicted new snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches for elevations above 3,000 feet locally to more than one foot of new snow above 4,000 feet through Tuesday.
More downed trees and power outages were expected.
“A wintry mix down to 2,500 feet is possible, with a coating to 3 inches of snow,” said forecasters early this week.
Wind gusts early this week reached 40 to 50 mph, with blowing snow and reduced visibility in the higher elevations.
San Jose and other bay-level communities experienced rain showers and some thunderstorms, with high temperatures near 49, and southwest winds gusting to 25 mph.
The weather was to turn clear and cold through the rest of the week, with more rain expected on the weekend.
The weather services warned that in the hills surrounding San Jose, slick, snow-covered roads and hiking trails will be dangerous.
Nearly 8,500 PG&E customers in the Bay Area were without power Monday as storm-related outages persist around the region. As of 9:30am, the North Bay had the largest number of those without power, with 4,944 customers affected, according to PG&E.
In the South Bay, 3,158 were without power, and the Peninsula had 226 affected.
Because of colder temperatures and rainy conditions, some San Jose facilities are being used as warming locations during regular operating hours. Valley Transportation Authority offered free rides through Wednesday to any of the warming centers in the county.
Highway 17 was closed in both directions between Los Gatos and Scotts Valley for nearly a day, because of snow and fallen trees. The heavily traveled commuter route was reopened to traffic at 4pm Friday.
The federal agency posted a photo on Twitter today of the Santa Cruz Harbor that showed snow even landing among boats at sea level—with a rainbow in the background.
In a separate tweet, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Garcia said there will be precipitation, including snow, in the area and all the way up to Humboldt and Mendocino counties.
In Southern California, rare blizzard conditions and two feet of snow hit the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles, and snow even dusted the HOLLYWOOD sign overlooking the city.
“You can see all these clouds moving in Northwest California and that’s heading down toward our little neck of the woods here in the Bay Area,” he said in the video posted this afternoon. Forecasters cautioned motorists to be prepared for anything:
“All that to say, be prepared. Make sure that you stay safe if you’re heading out.”
Experts say low visibility and hazardous road conditions will present risks for drivers. Motorists planning trips along popular routes, like Highway 17, Highway 101 or Interstate 5 faced icy conditions.
In Santa Cruz County, officials asked residents to cancel all travel plans except in cases of emergency because of a winter storm that is impacting many major roads around the county. Snow, ice and high winds have combined with fallen trees and downed power lines to create hazardous conditions around Santa Cruz County, San Benito and Monterey counties.