Low snow could blanket Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Forget snowball fights and snowmen. With the possibility of some serious snow falling in Auburn on Thursday, Mark Lizotte was reveling in the possibility of taking his snowmobile out for a spin on local roads. Lizotte was in his driveway checking out his Sabercat snowmobile on Wednesday. Usually, he’s traveling to snow courses 5,200 feet up in the Sierra for his snowmobiling. But the forecast for snow starting in earnest in Auburn Thursday evening and depositing up to 8 inches was revving up his imagination. “That would be fun,” Lizotte said. “Going around the block in a snow machine. I just could do that. If it was 2 a.m. and there was 6 or 8 inches on the ground, I’m out of here.” The National Weather Service’s Sacramento office issued a winter storm warning Wednesday for elevations above 2,000 feet and a winter weather advisory for foothills elevations below that. The warning and advisory will last from 1 p.m. Thursday through 4 a.m. Saturday. Jim Mathews, a weather bureau meteorologist, said that temperatures in Auburn – at an elevation of about 1,300 feet – should drop to the upper 20s and low 30s overnight Thursday. With precipitation accompanying a blast of Arctic air moving into the area, elevations around 1,500 feet or lower are expected to accumulate as much as 8 inches of snow, he said. And a dusting of snow could drop as low as Newcastle, at 1,000 feet, he said. There have also been predictions of snow in San Francisco and Sacramento. Mathews said the system moving in is very similar to one that brought a rare 2 inches of snow to Sacramento on Feb. 5, 1976. The weather service is hedging its bets this time around and calling for flurries on the valley floor. Friday night will be another cold one, with lows into the mid-20s. But things will warm up a little on Saturday, with highs in the low-40s, after the storm has moved through, Mathews said. The forecast is for a chance of rain and snow on Friday night. Kevin Taber, Placer County roads maintenance division manager, said crews are readying for low snow. That generally means having equipment available in lower elevations and providing plows and operators in areas other than Tahoe. “Instead of sending folks to Tahoe, we’ll be keeping some of them here,” Taber said. “Forecasts are backing off but we’re still looking at snow at 1,900 feet and that will tax our resources.” The important thing for members of the public in low-lying areas not used to heavy snow to remember is that the plows can’t be everywhere at once, Taber said. The Public Works Department expects to field calls from people asking why their street hasn’t been plowed and Taber asks for patience and understanding. “We’ll plow until it’s done and that means having equipment and personnel working around the clock,” he said. The County’s Office of Emergency Services is watching the weather and ready to react but the forecast isn’t calling for strong winds and that’s a good sign, said Program Manager Richard Simmons. “We’re hearing snow as low as 800 feet Friday morning,” Simmons said. “There’s not much we can do to stop the snow but we’ll be ready to react if and when it comes.” Caltrans spokeswoman Carol Herman said extra crews and equipment have been dispatched from the Sacramento Valley to aid in efforts to keep main traffic arteries like Highway 49 and Interstate 80 open. Drivers in low-lying areas not used to the snow should be particularly cognizant of following farther behind other vehicles, Herman said. The National Weather Service is predicting deeper accumulations of snow, higher winds, and whiteout conditions in the mountains. Herman said travelers over the Donner Summit should have blankets, chains or snow tires, extra food and water. “The main thing is to be prepared,” she said. Newcastle’s John Downs said he’ll keep working through any snow storm. The home-repair specialist said if he had to pick the days he worked based on the weather it was too hot, too rainy or too snowy, he’d probably be on the job three days a year. Downs said he’ll grit his teeth and make it through the cold and snow. “Snow belongs in the mountains,” Downs said. “It doesn’t belong here.”