More heavy rain forecast for Bay Area, feet of snow for Lake Tahoe

More heavy rain forecast for Bay Area, feet of snow for Lake Tahoe

More wintery weather is on tap across Northern California, with heavy rain forecast to drench the Bay Area — including a possible thunderstorm Sunday night — and a snowstorm set to blanket the Lake Tahoe region into the coming week.

“This is one of the stronger storms for this year,” said Crystal Oudit, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office.

The first wave of rain arrived in the Bay Area on Friday and Saturday morning, slickening roads but leaving only a fraction of an inch of precipitation across most inland areas, up to a half-inch along the coast and as much as an inch in the North Bay Mountains and Santa Cruz Mountains, according to the National Weather Service.

The next round was forecast to hit Saturday evening — around kick-off time for the 49ers playoff match-up with the Green Bay Packers in Santa Clara — and last through Sunday morning, followed by another downpour, gusty winds, and even potential thunderstorms late Sunday through Monday morning.

Anticipated weekend rain totals? Between 1.5 and 3 inches for most of the Bay Area, around 3 to 5 inches in the North Bay and 4 to 7 inches in the coastal mountains.

Scattered showers are expected between the bouts of heavy rain, and more light rainfall could arrive later in the week.

On Saturday, the California Highway Patrol reported at least a dozen highway collisions throughout the Bay Area amid the soggy weather. On Highway 24, multiple cars overturned in separate crashes near Lafayette and Walnut Creek. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured.

A man sits on the concrete barrier near a vehicle that ended sideways on Highway 24 in Lafayette, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

The weather service warned of minor flooding along some roadways and low-lying areas. Oudit also encouraged people to be wary should thunderstorms arrive Sunday.

“If you see a flash, just go inside, take the necessary precautions,” she said.

In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a snowstorm touching down on Saturday was set to dump up to 2 feet of snow on higher elevations in the Lake Tahoe area through early Tuesday.

A winter weather advisory for the area was in effect through 4 p.m. Sunday. A more serious winter storm warning was in effect for mountain passes through 10 p.m. Monday, meaning travel could be dangerous.

A branches from a fallen tree blocks Montclair Railroad Trail in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

“Have an emergency preparedness kit ready, carry your chains,” said weather service meteorologist Jeffery Wood in the Sacramento office.

Anyone hitting the slopes should also be cautious of avalanches. Fragile snow conditions have led to more than 50 in the backcountry so far this year, according to the Sierra Avalanche Center. One avalanche this month killed a skier at Palisades Tahoe, although its cause is still under investigation.

This weekend’s storm could add weight and stress to the brittle snow, potentially triggering more snowslides.

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At the same time, the storm should provide a welcome boost to the Sierra Nevada’s meager snowpack, the source of nearly one-third of California’s water supply. Earlier this month, the snowpack was at its lowest level in a decade, a major turnaround from last year when massive storms ended a three-year drought and buried ski resorts in huge amounts of snow.

On Friday, the snowpack was just 50% of its historical average. But the meager total so far is not a cause for panic, experts say. Not only are three months left in the winter season, which typically ends in early April, but last year’s soaking winter filled reservoirs across the state.