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TMCNet:  Snow falls in Modesto; Tuolumne County buried

[December 07, 2009]

Snow falls in Modesto; Tuolumne County buried

Dec 07, 2009 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- 3 p.m. Update: The rain and snow have moved on through Modesto and the Northern San Joaquin Valley, so can things get any worse? How does an overnight low temperature of 27 degrees strike you? The National Weather Service expects a hard frost overnight, the worst of it stretching from 4 a.m. until 10 a.m. There will be a bit of a breeze on top of that -- in the 3 mph to 7 mph range -- to make it feel even colder if you venture outside.


Up in the Sierra foothills in Sierra County, there could be a bit more snow before 10 o'clock tonight but nothing serious is expected. That's the good news.

The bad? In Sonora the overnight low is expected to be 23 degrees.

But those are amateur numbers. If you really want a full dose of winter, try Yosemite Valley. The weather service expects another 2 to 3 inches of snow at the park overnight, with a low temperature of a mere 9 degrees.

12:05 p.m. Update: Just how bad is it getting in Tuolumne County? The California Highway Patrol, which has doubled its staff and is inundated with snow-related traffic calls, is asking anyone in the area to refrain from traveling the roads tonight. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 20s.

"This county is going to turn into an ice rink tonight," said Michael Remmel, officer and public information officer for the California Highway Patrol's Sonora office.

The CHP is doing chain controls at Highway 108 at La Grange Road, 10 miles west of Jamestown and 22 miles east of Oakdale.

"It's been five or six years since we've had chain controls this low," he said. "And definitely not in December. The last time it was a February snowstorm." Chain controls are usually done in Jamestown, he said, about 500 feet higher in elevation.

11:42 a.m. Update: A big rig that jack-knifed in the snow at Highway 108/120 and La Grange Road stopped traffic on Highway 108, according to the California Highway Patrol.

There was a long stream of traffic heading up the hill east of Oakdale that was at a standstill, according to two travelers. The big rig, apparently, has been moved.

Snow has blanketed the county, with the south shore of Tulloch Reservoir and beyond covered with snow.

11:24 a.m. Update: The rain and snow that pelted the Modesto area is on its way out, and will give way to freezing temperatures tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

"It should be clearing out any time now," national weather service meteorologist Angus Barkhoff said.

He predicted a partly cloudy sky with a high of 44 degrees today. However, temperatures should fall into the mid 20s tonight, and tomorrow should bring a sunny sky with a high of 46, Barkhoff said.

He said the reports of snow in Modesto, with little or no accumulation, was typical of what he's hear from cities and towns throughout the floor of the San Joaquin Valley.

He said the traces of snow that fell in Modesto was typical of what he's heard from other people on the floor of the San Joaquin Valley.

11 a.m. Update: Modesto police responded this morning to a three-car crash near the intersection of Bodem Street and Scenic Drive.

Four people were transported to area hospitals with nonlife-threatening injuries, according to Dan Hinshaw, battalion chief with the Modesto Fire Department.

He said at about 10 a.m., a woman driving a van west on Scenic just past the cemetery lost control of her car and skidded sideways into the eastbound lane, where it was broadsided by an oncoming car. Another car then became involved.

The woman in the van, the two occupants in the first car and one of the two occupants in the second car were transported to the hospital.

Outside of that crash, traffic has flowed fairly well throughout the snowy morning, according to Lt. Scott Blom of the Modesto Police Department.

He said seven non-injury accidents have been reported since midnight.

It's rained 0.47 inches since 2 a.m., and the temperature has hovered at or near 34 degrees since 7 a.m.

According to most reports, the snow began falling in the 7 o'clock hour as temperatures fell from the high 30s to the mid 30s.

9:49 a.m. Update: All schools in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, including Columbia College, have been closed, according to mymotherlode.com.

Power outages throughout that region also have been reported.

9:18 a.m. Update: Please remember to drive carefully, especially if you're heading to the Sonora area.

The California Highway Patrol's Web site monitors accidents, and of the 23 incidents on its site right now -- which is a real high number -- 18 are being reported out of Sonora.

8:58 a.m. Update: Roberto Gonzalez was driving to work this morning and couldn't believe what he was seeing.

It was his first day working a day shift after a string of night shifts.

"I thought, 'I must be seeing things. It can't be snow. I'm trippin' ' " he said. "I was on Highway 99 and it was raining, and then it got different." Snow has been reported throughout the city and region as a combination of rain and temperatures in the mid 30s brought brief flurries of the white stuff beginning at daybreak.

Candy Beard, who lives on Poland Road in west Modesto, said she started seeing the snow just after 7:30 a.m.

"The kids ran outside in their jammies," she said. "There was enough to make snow balls off the car so they could throw them at each other." 8:16 a.m. Update: It's really coming down in West Modesto.

Snow has also been sighted in Ceres, Salida and downtown Modesto.

MID is reporting 0.38 inches of precipitation, with the temperature downtown holding steady in the last hour at 34 degrees.

7:31 a.m. Update It's snowing in Modesto.

The white stuff was reported on the city's west side by Bee photographer Bart Ah You. A Johansen High school student also reported snow at the school on Claus Road just south of Scenic Drive.

Ah You described the five- to 10-minute snowfall at about 7:25 a.m. He described it as a light snow that "pretty much melts when it hits your windshield." Temperatures have fallen steadily since daybreak, with a low reported in Modesto of 34 degrees. That temperature reading has come within the last 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, 0.32 inches of rain has fallen since about 2 a.m.

7:15 a.m. Update: Twitter users are waking up and telling the world about the weather. Christopher Rael of Stockton sent a message to The Bee, saying that snow was falling at Altamont Pass.

Twitterer Gene S. reported snow in Sonora, enough to make the asphalt white.

In addition to running regular updates here at modbee.com, The Bee will be tweeting weather developments. You can follow The Bee @modbee. The Bee encourages anyone with weather news to use the keyword "#mosnow" in their tweets to make it easier for others to keep tabs as the storm moves through town.

Television reports as of 7 a.m. had snow in Stockton and Tracy, with the storm head toward Modesto.

6:02 a.m. UpdateHas snow fallen in Modesto? Some say yes.

Temperatures, which were in the 40s as of 5 a.m., have dropped into the mid-30s.

Two-tenths of an inch of rain has fallen since the 2 a.m. hour this morning. The low temperature to this point has been 35 degrees, according to the Modesto Irrigation District.

The National Weather Service, which said on Sunday that snow could fall near sea level, canceled its winter storm warning and a few hours ago issued a winter weather advisory, saying the snow level would be near 500 feet.

The advisory is in effect until noon.

Snow has been reported over the Altamont Pass, and throughout parts of the Bay Area, including Walnut Creek, Danville and the Santa Cruz Mountains. It's also been reported in Granite Bay and Roseville.

The California Highway Patrol has reported some spinouts, and a big rig was blocking the slow lane on northbound Highway 99 just south of Tuolumne Boulevard just before 6 a.m., although details of that incident were not available. A big rig was reported overturned on northbound 99 in Ceres at the Mitchell Road offramp just after 6 a.m.

According to the Department of Transportation Web site, there are no restrictions for drivers on Highway 108 in the Sonora area. Chains and snow tires are required on Highway 120 three miles west of Yosemite. In Calaveras County, chains are required 3.5 miles east of Murphys to Arnold.

The weather service has issued a freeze warning for Tuesday from 2 a.m. until 9 a.m. Temperatures are expected to fall into the 20s.

------ Bundle up, dig out the mittens and you might want a camera. Forecasters are saying Modesto might get its first snowstorm in more than 30 years today.

One to 3 inches of snow might fall in the valley from Marysville to at least as far south as Stockton, the National Weather Service predicts.

If snow does make it to Modesto, enjoy it quickly. Midday rain likely will wash it away as the temperature rises to 37 to 47 degrees throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley. A hard freeze is expected tonight, dropping temperatures as low as 23 degrees.

That's quite a change from last Monday, when the sun warmed downtown to a relatively balmy 67 degrees and temperatures bottomed out at 40 degrees.

Snow arrived briefly by truck in 2007, a 30-foot hill of the fluffy stuff brought to Modesto Centre Plaza by the Dodge Ridge Ski Resort for a Dec. 1 stunt demonstration.

The last snow shower to hit town was in 1976. That year Jimmy Carter won the presidency, Apple Computer Co. was formed, "Shake Your Booty" hit it big on the radio and the Seattle Seahawks played their first game.

But the most famous snowfall in Modesto was in February 1962. Then-Gov. Pat Brown had confidently predicted the region's newly vacated Assembly seat would be filled by a Democrat. "It'll snow in Modesto before they elect a Republican there," declared Brown.

As fate would have it, it did snow in Modesto on that February election day. The snow was blamed for lowering the turnout, and Republican Jack Veneman was elected.

In 1990, Modestans' hopes for a white Christmas flurried for a moment before an ordinary drizzle rained on their parade. The cold front from Canada largely passed Modesto by that Dec. 21 -- no snow.

Today, once again, Modesto might be left shivering in the rain. The shivering, at least, is a sure thing.

"Every night, each night an hour earlier it gets so cold, just to the bone," said Karen Hammond, manager of the Tracy's Trees Christmas tree lot at Claribel and Oakdale roads. Hammond said Sunday the chill crept in about 6 p.m. Saturday, a long three hours before the lot closed for the night.

At McHenry Village, three midday hours of driving shoppers around in a horse-pulled wagon was enough to chill driver Brian Year- ian of Oakdale. He was bundled up in coat, hat and scarf, but horses Lucy and Ethel were stoic. The half-Percheron, half-Arabian half-sisters were snug in thick winter coats, Yearian said. "This cold doesn't bother them at all." It bothered his human helpers, though. "It's been three hours and we're freezing," Amy Crabtree of Modesto said.

To see more of The Modesto Bee, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.modbee.com/. Copyright (c) 2009, The Modesto Bee, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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