Northern California storms to bring winter-like conditions

A cold front expected to dump rain and snow in Northern California starting Wednesday has prompted the closure of a popular road at Yosemite National Park and left outdoor businesses bracing for smaller crowds through the weekend.

The first storm heading toward the state from the Gulf of Alaska is expected to bring winter-like conditions, with up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) of rain in some areas of the Sacramento Valley and as much as 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow in some mountain spots at elevations of about 7,000 feet (2,130 meters).

Snow could fall at lower elevations on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

A winter storm warning has been issued from Wednesday night through Friday morning for the southern Sierra Nevada. A second system is expected Saturday.

In Yosemite National Park, spokesman Scott Gediman said Glacier Point Road will close at 6 p.m. Wednesday ahead of a series of storms expected to dump at least a foot of snow (30 centimeters) on the highest peaks.

The 16-mile (26-kilometer) road, which offers sweeping views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, will remain closed until the storms pass and the road can be evaluated for hazards. The park will remain open, Gediman said.

Visitors are advised to prepare for winter driving conditions for the next several days along El Portal Road (Hwy 140), Big Oak Flat Road (Hwy 120 W) and Wawona Road (Hwy 41), he said.

In Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, some business owners braced for slower traffic and cancelations because of the wet weather.

Galen Licht, who owns Sea Trek Kayak, said the rainy forecast is forcing him to cancel a lot of the company’s guided kayaking trips through the San Francisco Bay.

“It’s raining here right now and there is nobody here. We don’t have any business,” Licht said.

He said three groups had canceled trips booked for Wednesday. He offers full refunds when people cancel due to weather.

Licht hopes some people will return Friday, when a break in the stormy weather is expected and visitors can look at herons, pelicans and other wildlife in the bay and take in views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline.

A series of winter storms this year drenched California with rain and snow that has left many of its reservoirs almost full, including the newly rebuilt Oroville Dam, which was at 95% capacity Tuesday.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said state officials have been monitoring reservoir levels and releasing water throughout the season.

The current storm is not expected to create widespread flooding because some snow has already melted, he said.

In Butte County, Sheriff Kory Honea took to social media to reassure residents about the ability of Oroville Dam to handle inflow from the upcoming storms. Two years ago, 200,000 people had to evacuate amid fears prompted by heavy rain.

“I don’t believe there is a current imminent threat,” Honea said.


Associated Press writer Juliet Williams contributed to this story.

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