California Deluge… What it means for us…

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 7:44 am


A major pattern change is about to take place that will bring big storms to California, and hopefully some decent accumulations to the mountains of Utah as well.  This all begins on Sunday with the first in a series of storms.


First things first…  A weak system clipped the region last night and several resorts are reporting 1-2″ of snow overnight.  Hopefully just enough to soften things up just a touch — but probably just dust on crust.

The pattern change we’ve been talking about for the past week or so is now within the 5 day window, which means we can start going into a bit of details.  Some of the model runs over the past 48 hours have been nothing short of impressive for California and the Sierra Nevada mountains.  I’ve been somewhat obsessing over these storms because there looks to be at least 3 of them and each one could bring massive rain and high mountain snow to that region.  Also, I spent the first 18 years of my life in the Tahoe area and its where I fell in love with both skiing and studying the weather, so I have a particularly keen eye for storms in that region as well.  And BOY OH BOY, are there going to be storms!  And yes, Utah is going to get in on the action.

The first storm pushes into the west coast on Saturday, pummeling the Sierra before crossing the Great Basin Saturday night and bringing wind, lower valley rain, and mountain snow to Utah on SUNDAY.  Sunday should be a storm day with skiing getting better as the day goes on.  Monday morning should be good as well.  Current look at ensemble qpf:

Image courtesy of

My dog is trying hard not to allow me to type this part of the forecast, but I persevere…  You can see that virtually all ensembles show at least one inch of qpf by Monday afternoon.  With the adjusted mean at over 1.5″.  This would equate to a decent snow storm Sunday thru Monday in the high Wasatch.  We’ll see if this trend holds tomorrow morning before forecasting amounts.

The parent low is going to sag south on Monday/Tuesday into the desert southwest, but that will open the door for another system middle to late next week.  There are timing differences in the models, but we should have active weather most days with one really active day when the front itself pushes thru.  Right now that looks like probably Thursday or Friday of next week.  Models then have a third system timing for a couple days after that.  Essentially, the active pattern looks like it will continue thru at least the middle of March.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, California is going to feel the brunt of these systems.  3 big storms in the next ten days, total precipitation looks like this:


Utah doesn’t do too badly, with 3-4 inches of liquid in the mountains, but California looks like a war zone with 10-20″ of liquid for the mountains of NorCal.  I think it’s safe to say that there will be no survivors….  Ok, that was a touch hyperbolic, but you get the point.  These storms will go a long way to easing the drought in the Northern half of that state.

As for snowfall, it’s going to be deep out there.  You may have seen the hype machine revving its engine yesterday with stories of 100+ inches coming to the west.  Generally I advise against buying into these articles, however, in the case of the Sierra, I’d say it’s warranted.  All models, including the generally more conservative Euro, are calling for prodigious amounts of snowfall.  Check it out:


Off the charts snowfall.  The high peaks of the Sierra may very well see 10+ feet of snow over the next 10 days if this verifies.

Again, I do apologize for talking so much about our neighbors to the west, but I have my reasons.  This storm energy is going to make it to Utah in due course as well.  When it does, it will be infiltrated with colder air and as always, we’ll have a better snow quality.  Yes, atmospheric river events like this do get diffused a bit as you get farther from the ocean and after they are strained through mountain ranges, so we won’t see as much as Cali, but we should still get our fair share.

In short, I think a “Miracle March” just might be in the cards for us if this pattern holds as currently advertised.  I still think we should contain our excitement until we are closer and have more details, but at the very least, snow is returning, the question now is just how much we get.

Stay tuned…


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  • Jim

    What are your thoughts on MJO today? This is a repeat of January last time MJO came around into phases 1 and 2. Bodes well for March.

    • MJO seems to be dying. So it may no longer interfere constructively or destructively with ENSO. If it regains strength, hopefully it will do so in Phase 1 or 2 which I believe would help us out. MJO has been critical so far this year…

      • Jim

        It seems that way. With such a bad February, March may help to still salvage a near normal seasonal snowfall.

  • alchse

    How are temps looking for next thurs – saturday? Wondering if I should pack the extra cold weather gear.

    • Steve French

      who packs 8 days before leaving??!?

    • Definitely not going to be frigid, but will be cold enough for snow.

  • CharlieRN

    I’m getting ready to head to SLC on 8 Mar for a week of skiing, so this is really welcome news. Will be checking WSF eagerly every morning, with fingers crossed. Thanks for a very informative site.

  • David Vito Miele

    I am heading to Tahoe tomorrow with ski days Friday March 4th – Tuesday March 8th. I suppose I should pack my clown feet? When is the snow going to start in Tahoe? Thank you

    • Saturday night is when the first storm moves into the Tahoe area.

      • David Vito Miele

        Awesome. Thanks!

  • Erock

    So most snow falls after lifts close Sunday or throughout the day Sunday? How does north resorts like Powder Mountain look to do?

    • Good questions… Both of them. Also two things that are very difficult to give a good answer to at this time. I think most snow will fall after lift close, but it’s real close and could go either way with slight changes in timing. PowMow should do alright but I’m a bit hesitant to forecast any amounts yet. Tomorrow, perhaps we’ll know more.

      • Erock

        Thanks for the reply. Well I took Monday off so I’m safe! Road trip to California anyone? 🙂

        • Steve French

          better off staying here. Tahoe is going to be a gong show with lots of travel delays. Ill take less, but better quality snow anyday.

  • Evan

    So typical how I pushed my trip from this weekend to next weekend and now it looks like powder is a fairly sure thing for this coming Sunday & Monday. Things just change so quickly. I can’t even be mad…happy for everyone and pretty optimistic about my chances for next weekend. Let’s just hope it stays cold

    • I think you’ll be just fine with next weekend.

      • Steve French

        Id say you hit the nail on the head. would you prefer skiing fresh on hardpack ( sunday – monday) or fresh on fresh (later in week). Rhetorical question, no need to answer.

  • Liz

    Pretty happy we changed our flights from end of February to next week now!

  • Anna Vann

    I knew March would deliver the goods!

  • Jim

    Evan any concerns with 12z runs? Don’t like what I’m seeing on GFS or Euro for next week.

    • Evan


      • Steve Noufer


        • Evan

          The bullishness of the forecast for next week might have to be reigned in given the most recent run of the major forecasting models. We all need to not get overly excited about possible events that are 10 days away, but it’s so hard to do.

          • Steve Noufer

            Grrr…….. And not loving the trend of the 18Z GFS either. But you’re right, it was hard not to get excited this morning.

  • Eric Roeloffs

    Thanks for the great news. Will be at Snowbird from 3/18 to 3/25 and hoping for fresh snow. Just hope the snow train continues throughout March!

  • Newtah

    Don’t apologize for discussing the Sierra. Its good stuff. Classic Sierra dumpage. Many of us have been there, done that, and still have friends there. Ten feet in three days? Yes, it’s real and it’s spectacular.

  • Jelmer van der Meer

    It’s all in the buoye