California storm adds to monumental seasonal snow totals, shattering records

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The latest storm to hit California brought more rain, snow and gusty winds to a state that has been hammered by storms since the start of the year. While the latest storm was not as strong as previous systems, its impacts were still felt across the snow-packed, water-logged state.

As heavy snow fell in the higher elevations and created near-whiteout conditions, several drivers became stuck. In a video shared by Storm Chaser Brandon Clement, cars slowly drove down a snow-covered road. Visibility was low, and piles of snow could be seen towering over the sides of roadways.

On highways, such as Interstate 80, chains were required. A lull in the snow on Wednesday afternoon allowed the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to lift its chain control, but the agency noted on Twitter that "it's not that simple." CHP warned that additional chain controls would be issued as snow resumed on Wednesday evening.

Several closures were issued for parts of Interstate 80 due to spun-out and stuck vehicles, CHP tweeted.

More than 30 atmospheric rivers have charged toward the United States' West Coast since November, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Combined with Arctic air, California's mountains have measured a record-breaking amount of snow.

Mammoth Mountain, a ski resort located in the southern Sierra Nevada, broke a 13-year record on Wednesday when weather observers at the mountain measured 695 inches of snow since Oct. 1. This breaks the previous record of 668 inches, which was set during the 2010-2011 winter season.

At the mountain's summit, which is located at an elevation of 11,053 feet, a season total of 879 inches has been measured since Oct. 1.

Due to the mountain's ample snow, officials announced last week that the ski resort would be open daily until the end of July at the very least.

Annual snow water equivalent for the Western snowpack. (Climate Central)

"We are stoked to announce that we will be open daily for skiing and riding until at least the end of July," the resort stated in a Facebook post. "As always, we do not have a closing date set but will plan to stay open as long as conditions allow."

On Wednesday, 20.7 inches of snow fell at the CSSL. Added to the season total, the snow lab, which is located in Soda Springs, surpassed the 700-inch benchmark. According to a tweet from the lab, 713.8 inches of snow has fallen since Oct. 1.


The snowiest season on record for the University of California, Berkley's Central Sierra Snow Lab (CSSL) occurred in 1952 when 812 inches of snow came down.

The Sierra Nevada's snowpack is now well above average. The southern third of the mountain range was at nearly 290% of the historical average for March 29. The snowpack in the northern third of the mountain range was nearly 190% of average.

Snowfall reports in the Sierra Nevada during a 36-hour period starting Tuesday, March 29, 2023, morning.

Since Tuesday morning, multiple locations measured more than 2 feet of snow. Bucks Lake, California, which sits at an elevation of 5,161 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada, measured 31 inches of snow from the most recent atmospheric river.

North of Bucks Lake, sitting at an elevation of 4,534 feet Chester, California, measured 28 inches of snow. Mount Rose ski resort in Reno, Nevada, measured 22 inches of snow.

Rain and some melted snow from the recent series of storms have brought much-needed water to the state. The state's two largest reservoirs, Oroville and Shasta, have risen above their historical average to date after years of being significantly depleted. Don Pedro and Folsom reservoirs have risen above their historical average to date.

California reservoir levels as of Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Data source: CDEC -

The onslaught of moisture since late last year has reversed the years-long drought in California. More than 15% of the state is considered to be drought-free, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday the rollback of several water-use restrictions. Newsom did not say that the drought was over and kept some measures in place.

The most recent storm brought 2 to 4 inches of rain to Northern California. From Monday night to Wednesday night, Brandy Creek, California, located northeast of Sacramento, measured the highest rainfall total of the storm, with a total of 5.2 inches. Areas like Santa Cruz, Santa Maria and Redding received 1 to 2 inches of rain.

Rainfall totals in Northern California from Monday, March 27, 2023, to Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

In addition to the rain, hail pounded San Francisco and surrounding neighborhoods. On Wednesday, videos shared on social media showed the hail piling up on the streets and in people's backyards. So much hail piled up that vehicles looked like they were covered in a light dusting of snow.

Strong, gusty winds were reported across the northern third of the state. The highest wind gust of 111 mph came from Heavenly ski resort, which is located on the California-Nevada state line at an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level.

Top wind gusts from a 48-hour period ranging from Tuesday, March 28, 2023, to Wednesday, March 30, 2023.

As the storms continued to roll through on Thursday, a tornado warning was issued for parts of San Diego County. This is the first tornado warning the county has had since 2016.

During last week's storms, a tornado warning was issued for a severe storm moving through Los Angeles County. It was the first time since 2014 that a tornado warning was issued for the county. After a storm survey was completed from the National Weather Service, it was confirmed that an EF1 tornado had touched down in Los Angeles County.

Even though the strongest wind gusts came from the highest elevations in the state, lower elevations also felt the impacts of gusty winds. Combined with the saturated soils across the lower elevations, downed trees and power lines weren't hard to come by.

A video shared by officials in Placer County, which is home to the Sacramento metropolitan area, showed a large tree that had fallen on top of a sidewalk.

As of Tuesday evening, more than 20,000 customers were without power, according to PowerOutage.US, Axios reported. As of Thursday evening, outages had dropped below 10,000.

This most recent storm was a bomb cyclone, according to AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor and meteorologist Jesse Ferrell. A bomb cyclone is defined by meteorologists as a low-pressure system that intensifies quickly enough that the central barometric pressure drops 0.71 of an inch of mercury (24 millibars) within 24 hours. Ferrell says that the primary low-pressure system absorbed two or three other low-pressure systems before hitting its lowest pressure of 28.94 inches of mercury (980 millibars).

Last week's bomb cyclone reached its peak intensity or lowest pressure as it made landfall, which made the effects of the storm more impactful. This week's storm reached its peak intensity over the ocean and started to slowly weaken as it moved onshore.

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