First Winter Storm Brings 2 Feet Of Snow To California

By: AP/CBS (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: AP/CBS (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
Fall looked a lot like winter across Northern California.  Forecasters were calling for up to 2 feet of snow at the highest elevations in the northern Sierra Nevada.

Chain installers work as snow falls on eastbound Interstate 80 near Nyack, Calif., Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. The first storm of the season swept through Northern California bringing rain to the lower elevations and snow in the mountains. / AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

FRESNO, Calif. (CBS/AP) - The season's first major storm has brought much needed rain and snow to northern California on Monday.

Fall looked a lot like winter across Northern California as the storm brought out snow plows on Interstate 80, prompted travel advisories at higher elevations and showered the rest of the parched region with much-needed rain. Forecasters were calling for up to 2 feet of snow at the highest elevations in the northern Sierra Nevada, a good sign for a state dependent on winter snow accumulation for its water supply.

"It looks like Mother Nature threw us our first snowball," said Rochelle Jenkins of Caltrans, which was enforcing chain controls above 4,300 feet on I-80, the state's main highway through the Sierra Nevada.

Baseball fans are hoping for clear skies at 5:07 p.m. as the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals play the deciding seventh game of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park. The forecast is for a 30 to 40 percent chance of scattered showers across the region at game time, said Charles Bell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"It's one of these cases where one city could pick up a little, but one 20 miles away would be dry," he said. "If any go through it will be relatively light -- less than a tenth of an inch -- and fairly brief."

Early Monday chain controls also were in effect on U.S. Highway 50 southwest of Lake Tahoe. By late morning nearly an inch of rain had fallen on Sacramento.

"This is a good storm, especially for being our first," Jenkins said.

It wasn't all good news. Law enforcement authorities were working to clear five jackknifed big rigs that forced the closing of Highway 20 east of Nevada City, where at least 6 inches of snow had accumulated by mid-morning.

The Sacramento Bee added that the rain had downed power lines and caused localized flooding in the Sacramento area. Rich Wetzel, an officer with he California Highway Patrol, said there were "dozens of collisions and spinouts" due to people driving at high speeds on wet roadways.

Caltrans worked to keep traffic flowing through a 10-mile construction zone on I-80 about 75 miles northeast of Sacramento, using plows to toss snow over concrete barriers.

More than 10,000 people in the Merced area lost power due to the storm, KTXL reported.

Another 15,000 people in the Yosemite also had their electricity cut out, but had it restored one to two hours later.

A winter storm warning above 5,500 feet will remain in effect until 5 a.m. Tuesday. The heaviest snowfall was expected on Monday, though snow showers were expected into Tuesday night, said Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

More widespread precipitation was expected to move across Northern California on Wednesday.

In the southern Sierra, the California Highway Patrol issued a chain warning for Highway 168 above Shaver Lake. Yosemite National Park was expecting about 8 inches of snow above 6,000 feet. Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Road were closed at 10 p.m. Sunday, but officials there will assess conditions on both as weather improves.

The storm system originated in the Gulf of Alaska and has stalled over the Pacific northwest, bringing colder temperatures and gusty winds of up to 80 mph at the crests of the Sierra.

Highway officials say a series of storms brewing in the Pacific could wallop the northern half of the state through Friday.

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