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Rare sight returns

Snowflakes falling as low as 1,000 feet Friday reminded Nevada County foothill residents that they just don’t see many of them anymore.

Weather watchers for The Union said there hasn’t been much snow at all below 3,000 feet since mid-February 2001. That’s when a storm dumped more than 3 feet of snow and closed the Nevada County Airport above Grass Valley and Nevada City, which are located between 2,400 and 2,600 feet.

“We haven’t had hardly any,” in recent years, said Ray Kraush of snowfall in Washington, which is at 4,230 feet. “It snows and then it disappears.



“We’ve seen four feet at times in the early ’90s and in the ’80s when I first moved up here, we had a lot of snow. Now you might get 6 or 8 inches and that’s about all it gets. It doesn’t get to what you call snowbound. ”

Storms that come in off the Pacific from the southwest and from the Gulf of Alaska to the north carry more moisture because they pass over the ocean, which is warmer than the Canadian earth, said Harry Stockman of the Qwikcast.com weather service




“The coldest systems we get are like the one we have now from the Canadian land mass,” said Stockman. “The snow amount is usually light from these storms because they’re so cold the air can’t hold onto the moisture.”

According to Stockman and the National Weather Service, the current storm was expected to leave 2 to 5 inches more of snow by this afternoon in the foothills. The storm is expected to move into Nevada later today, with temperatures climbing back into the 50s early next week and no precipitation.

Lows will remain around freezing until Monday night.

The storm should bring about 5 to 10 inches of new powder to ski resorts in the Donner Pass Area, a welcome sight to Greg Murtha, the marketing director at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.

“We definitely haven’t had as much this year,” Murtha said. “I’ve been here 11 years and it fluctuates wildly.”

“It’s definitely been the least we’ve had in a long time here,” said Emily Herl at Boreal Mountain Resort. “It’s not that we haven’t got precipitation, it’s just that it’s been rain.

“It’s basically a temperature problem, I think. My personal opinion is that global warming is kicking in.”

Alta Sierra weather watcher Karl Hillemann agrees.

“I’m not a weather expert, but you could point to global warming as a potential cause,” Hillemann said. “Old time photos of Grass Valley have 5 to 6 feet of snow. Now, that would be freakish.”

“I guess it’s the warming of the continent,” said Kraush, who remembers not being able to see out of his Washington windows in the 1980s when snow from his roof was pushed onto several feet on the ground.

This past summer, a Nature Conservancy expert, who is studying climate change in the Sierra with the Tahoe National Forest, said global warming is definitely affecting snow levels.

Patrick Gonzalez, a climate expert schooled at UC Berkeley, Stanford and a Fulbright Scholar said there has been a 10 percent decrease in global snow cover since 1960. Gonzalez said scientists fear that will continue as the earth’s temperatures increase 2 to 10 percent by the year 2100.

In Peardale, weather watcher Doug Wilson remembers the time during the 1980s when he came home from a trip to find 4 feet of snow in his driveway.

Friday morning he watched about one-quarter inch accumulate, he said. It was gone by noon.

ooo

To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.


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