Old Mother Nature isn't through with the Sierra just yet. After EIGHT to TWELVE feet blanketed the Sierra last week, another major storm is about to bring several feet of snow to the area over the next few days. Expect solid storm totals further inland as well, in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado, but generally less than 20\. The pattern stays active in the near term, but around mid month we may finally see a major pattern shift that dries things out in the West.
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Short Term Forecast
We have been in an incredibly stubborn pattern this Winter, one that is great for snow lovers in the Western US. In the image below, from @Climatologist49 on Twitter, you can see how this year's December to February precipitation ranks historically. From the Sierra, through Utah, southern Idaho, Wyoming, and northern Colorado, this was the wettest or one of the top five wettest years in history. This is the result of a stubborn pattern with countless moisture rich atmospheric rivers.
Below, you can see the total precipitation for the next three days. The most moisture is once again piling up in the same areas as the image above, from the Sierra stretching northeast into Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado.
Further, you can see this pattern even better in the precipitation anomalies for the next few days, which show, compared to normal, how much precipitation is going to fall during the next 5 days. Once again, that area from the Sierra in California stretching north and east is going to see the most snow.
Finally, one major positive result of this stubborn pattern is significant drought relief in California, as seen below, with all of the exceptional and extreme drought areas disappearing.
Significant drought relief has taken place in Utah as well. Even more drought relief is expected with this next storm as well.
This storm has already reached the California coast, as seen in the radar image below.
Snow should reach the Sierra within a few hours, as a very strong area of low pressure drops down from the Gulf of Alaska and start to make landfall on the West coast. Heavy snow will fall today, tonight, and through midday tomorrow, before decreasing in intensity but continuing through the afternoon as well. Expect 6-12\" today (Saturday), 10-18\" Saturday night, and another 6-12\" during the day on Sunday. The higher end of these ranges will be for resorts along the Sierra Crest, like Palisades, Sugar Bowl, and Kirkwood, with lesser totals further away from the Crest. There will be periods of strong winds Saturday, Saturday night, and early Sunday morning, that will impacts lifts and snow quality. Winds began to decrease mid morning on Sunday while moderate to heavy snow continues.
This storm quickly moves inland and begins to impact northern Utah Saturday afternoon/evening as well. The Cottonwoods may see a few inches before lifts close today, but the heaviest snow should fall tonight. Winds will be strong overnight as well, while 8-16\" pile up Saturday night. The models are not in agreement about the wind direction early Sunday morning, but if the winds veer northwest, totals may be a bit higher at Snowbird and Alta. Some snow showers may linger through the day on Sunday, but with light accumulations only, before another round of snow arrives Sunday night.
Due to the storm track, southern Idaho will see a period of southerly winds, which will allow Sun Valley to see some solid snow totals from Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning. Expect 2-4\" Saturday afternoon, and another 4-8\" Saturday night before tapering off in the morning. Some models are showing a switch back to southerly winds Sunday night, which could result in another period of moderate snow for the area. Expect similar totals at Bogus Basin and perhaps a bit less, 4-8\" total, at Brundage and Tamarack.
This storm will bring solid totals to the Tetons as well, from Saturday afternoon through Sunday. Similar to Utah, expect a few inches Saturday afternoon, followed by an additional 4-8\" tonight at Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole. Expect a period of gusty winds Saturday night as well.
Finally, this storm will make its way into Colorado as well, with the heaviest totals in the northern mountains. Steamboat should see 4-8\" from Saturday night through Tuesday, heaviest during the day on Sunday. Expect amounts in the 2-5\" range elsewhere in the northern half of Colorado.
Long Term Forecast
Once this storm wraps up on Tuesday of next week, another storm will swing through the western US, taking a similar track, but not as strong. Snow will fall from the Sierra, through Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado once again, from Wednesday afternoon through Friday, with totals likely in the 8-16\" range for the Sierra, and lesser amounts inland. For Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, a more southerly track would yield lower totals, so we will wait for more details there.
There may be one more storm swinging through off the parent low pressure system around next weekend, but it's a bit too early to lock that one in. Beyond that, the models are showing an upper level low pressure system developing over the midwest/eastern US, and a ridge over the western US that would block or limit storms. We have not seen this pattern very often this winter, and when it has surfaced, it hasn't lasted for very long. We will see how long this pattern will stick around this time, but our guess would be not too long, with a return to an active pattern in the West by the end of the month.
Thanks for reading the forecast. Follow me @lstone84 on Instagram to track and chase storms all Winter long!