After a warm, sunny President’s Day weekend, an approaching cold front could bring rain and even snowfall to lower elevations throughout the Bay Area next week.
Nighttime temperatures are expected to dip below freezing in much of the region from Tuesday through Friday. And with a chance of precipitation in the forecast, light snow may be in store for areas up to 1,500 feet.
That includes the East Bay Hills, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and parts of the North Bay. The region’s highest peaks, such as Mount Diablo and Mount Hamilton, can receive up to several inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
“A lot is still unknown at this point, but it looks like a good setup for snow at lower elevations,” said meteorologist Roger Gass of the weather service.
Early forecasts show a 30% to 50% chance of snow in the Bay Area starting next Tuesday, he said.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, said on Twitter that while some weather models predict snowfall at sea level, that’s extremely unlikely as it’s rare to see a “freezing level all the way to the surface” at lower elevations in the Bay Area, he said.
Still, Swain said the incoming weather pattern approaching from Western Canada “could cause significant problems in places that rarely see as much snow,” and that hailstorms are “plausible just about anywhere.”
The weather service could not say when snow last fell at lower elevations in the Bay Area. But in 2018, the cold winter weather brought snow to the hills across the East Bay and South Bay.
Last Tuesday, the weather service reported light snow at the Lick Observatory, about 4,000 feet near the top of Mount Hamilton, 14 miles east of downtown San Jose.
In areas that don’t see snow next week, showers totaling about half an inch are currently forecast. Potentially damaging wind gusts of up to 45 mph are also expected on Tuesday and Wednesday. After the cold nighttime conditions, dipping into the 20s in the hills and mountains and the low to mid 30s at lower elevations, daytime highs will reach the upper 40s to low 50s.
Current conditions at Lick Observatory near the top of Mt Hamilton (4,200 ft): light snow (little accumulation expected), temperature of 28.3 F, wind speed of 27 mph gusting to 41 mph and a wind chill of 14.0 F. Horizontal distance from Downtown San Jose: 21.6 miles. pic.twitter.com/5IM0DwMbcT
— NWS Bay Area 🌉 (@NWSBayArea) February 14, 2023
About 1 to 3 feet of snow is expected in the Sierra Nevada mountains next week, boosting snowpack in the area, which reached its highest level in nearly three decades after a series of atmospheric river storms ravaged the state last month. On Saturday, snow cover in Central Sierra was 186% of normal for this time of year.
Along with Presidents’ Day weekend, many Bay Area schools enter a “ski week” in the middle of winter, giving families the chance to get in their cars and head into the mountains.
Near-perfect skiing conditions will continue throughout the weekend. But with snow and strong winds arriving Tuesday, motorists should exercise caution on the roads, said weather service meteorologist Katrina Hand.
Don’t be surprised if some mountain passes are temporarily closed.
“We anticipate some mountain travel impacts and impacts on some of those highways,” Hand said, adding that more snow could be on the way this weekend.
After a mass of cold air sliding down from the Gulf of Alaska earlier this week prompted frost warnings in the Bay Area, it looks like the rest of the holiday weekend will be more comfortable.
Daytime temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-60s, and even below the 70s in some inland areas, following chilly nighttime temperatures of above the 30s to the mid-40s. Clear skies are also expected through Monday, apart from some passing high clouds.