BOISE, Idaho — A winter storm has swept aside two long-standing snow records in Boise, Idaho, and is moving east as turbulent weather lined up across much of the country Thursday with watches covering large parts of the South.
The National Weather Service says snow accumulating for several weeks reached 15 inches Thursday in Boise and broke the previous snow-depth record of 13 inches set twice in the mid-1980s.
The service also says that the 6.5 inches of snow that fell Wednesday eclipsed the 1951 record of 3.2 inches.
Meteorologist Jay Breidenbach with the National Weather Service in Boise says an Arctic air mass in Idaho combined with moist air off the Pacific Ocean is driving the storm east to bring snow to Colorado and New Mexico.
He said the storm will continue moving east and "could bring a wintery mix to some southern cities like Atlanta."
Winter storm watches Thursday covered large parts of Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas ahead of the storm system that threatens to spread a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow across the region.
Certainly any snow down your way is significant because of potential disruptions to local traffic and all the activities throughout the Southeast," said Mike Schichtel, lead forecaster at the federal government's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
But for California, it's rain, not snow that is causing problems. In Southern California, Thursday morning commuters were warned of slick roads as a series of rain storms moved through. Counties in Central California were under a flash flood warning until 1 p.m. Thursday.
But on Thursday, heavy snow and strong winds raised the avalanche danger in much of Colorado's high country.
Some areas have seen several feet of new snow while others had received less than a foot by Thursday morning, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, reported. Two passes were shut down so crews could reduce the chance of avalanches.
In Utah, an overnight winter storm dumped as much as 9 inches of snow on parts of northern Utah and forced at least half a dozen school districts to cancel or delay classes Thursday.
The National Weather Service reported that Salt Lake City International Airport saw nearly 5 inches of snow overnight, with other pockets receiving 3 to 4 inches.
With a threat of freezing rain to parts of the Deep South, Schichtel urged residents to be on guard and avoid driving if conditions deteriorate. It only takes a thin layer of ice to create havoc for all types of vehicles, he said.
"If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and you think you're safe, you're not," Schichtel said of icy conditions. "Take it very seriously and adjust your travel plans accordingly. Even if the reports are for very minor icing, I would avoid the roads."
|Sara Robertshaw, 45, her boyfriend Emmanuel Lee, 39, and Lee's son Christian Lee, 5, walk through blowing snow along East 18th Street in Erie, Pa., on Jan. 5, 2017. (Photo: Christopher Millette, AP)|
Winter storms take aim on West, South
A pair of winter storms will deliver snow across the South from Thursday through Saturday, while another storm is poised to pound California with drenching rain and several feet of snow over the weekend.
Parts of the Ohio Valley and Appalachians saw snow on Thursday from the first storm. Anywhere from 1 to 3 inches was expected in cities such as Louisville, Cincinnati and Nashville by the time the storm winds down overnight.
An overnight dusting was also possible in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City.
A separate, more potent storm will target the South on Friday and Saturday. A winter storm warning is in effect from central Alabama to eastern North Carolina. This includes metro Atlanta.
In Georgia, a state of emergency will go into effect at noon on Friday ahead of the snowfall, Gov. Nathan Deal announced on Thursday. A state of emergency will also go into effect Friday in Alabama.
For much of the region, this will be the first snowfall of the season, the weather service said. It should also be the biggest winter storm in the Southeast in three years, according to the Weather Channel.
Friday and Friday night, a trace to potentially 4 inches is forecast in northern Alabama and northern Georgia, including Atlanta.
The heaviest snow should fall in eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia on Saturday, where up to a foot is possible in some areas. This includes both Raleigh, N.C., and Norfolk, Va., the Weather Channel said.
Winter storm watches and advisories are also in effect in portions of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Farther to the South, rain will soak the Gulf Coast and Florida.
Up to a foot or more of rain and several feet of snow are forecast for the West this weekend, the National Weather Service said. Impacts include the potential of debris flows on burn scars as well as flooding in California.
Wintry weather will also extend into the Pacific Northwest and Nevada.
In all, another 10 to 15 feet of snow could bury portions of the Sierra over the next 10 days, according to WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue.
Rain is a major concern at lower elevations: "It cannot be emphasized enough that the forecast amounts of rain will cause extreme flooding for the Sierra foothills and adjacent lower elevations," the weather service warned. "Yosemite Park has the potential for a major flood as well as most other locations along rivers and streams in the Central California interior."
Closer to the coast, heavy rain could lead to flooding, mudslides and debris flows in both the San Francisco and Los Angeles metro areas, the weather service warned.
Strong winds can lead to power outages, AccuWeather said. Avalanches are also possible in the Cascades and Sierra.
The source of the heavy rain and snow in the West is what meteorologists call an "atmospheric river," which acts like a fire hose to funnel moisture from the tropical Pacific toward California.
These rivers transport huge amounts of water vapor — the gas form of liquid water — toward the West, where it's wrung out in the form of rain and snow, noted Mashable's Andrew Freedman.
Elsewhere, lake-effect snow will continue to bury portions of the Great Lakes region. The typical snow belt regions of Michigan and New York State will see heavy snow over the next two to three days.
Wet, winter storms pummel West; headed for Rockies
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Much of Northern California and the Sierra Nevada braced for potential flooding into the weekend as a winter storm that dumped more than 2 feet of snow around Lake Tahoe made its way toward Utah and the Rockies.
Stiff winds toppled a towering evergreen tree into an Oregon home, killing an 8-year-old girl, while blizzard conditions closed major highways and triggered a small avalanche in the Sierra on Wednesday as wet, windy storms pummeled much of the West.
The child, Zaylee Schlect, was the daughter of a volunteer firefighter who was working during the storm that downed trees throughout the state on Tuesday night. She was killed in Otis, a town near the coast. Others inside the home were uninjured, authorities said.
Another foot of snow was expected early Thursday in the upper elevations around Lake Tahoe, where more than 2 feet fell Tuesday through Wednesday, snarling traffic.
Flash flood watches were issued for most of the Sierra along the Nevada-California line, where the National Weather Service said the potential for another 6 to 12 inches of rain would create serious flooding concerns into the weekend.
As much as 6 inches of rain was reported Wednesday in Doyle, California about 40 miles north of Reno, Nevada and more than an inch in Carson City and Sparks, the weather service said. Officials in Reno and Sparks and neighboring rural counties said they would start making sandbags available for residents and local residents on Thursday.
All major Sierra passes were closed Wednesday night, including a 50-mile stretch of U.S. Interstate 80 — from about 50 miles east of Sacramento, California, in the foothills near Colfax to Truckee, about 30 miles southwest of Reno, Nevada. The eastbound portion of I-80 was reopened early Thursday morning, the California Department of Transportation said on its website.
"We are looking at near white-out conditions," Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said earlier Wednesday when they closed the only state highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe.
Nevada state trooper Dan Gordon said visibility was near zero at times, but there were no reports of major accidents.
"Just a lot of slide-offs and roadway conditions that are just horrendous — really treacherous," he said. Even cars with chains were getting stuck and sliding off the road, he said.
In Utah, snow that accumulated over several days caused the roof of a business to collapse in Provo. No injuries were reported.
Snow was also falling in Wyoming, where a winter storm warning was posted for much of the Interstate 80 corridor, including Cheyenne. Heavy snow was also expected in Colorado.
In New Mexico, forecasters said a blustery winter storm will produce significant snowfall and strong winds across much of the northern and eastern parts of the state beginning late Wednesday and peaking early Friday.
Some highways flooded Wednesday in the San Francisco Bay Area, and mud and rockslides were reported in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The San Lorenzo River was swollen and the Big Sur River was also above flood stage. Flood warnings and watches were issued for 11 counties in the region, and forecasters said heavy rains would last through Thursday.
The storm could be a boon for drought-plagued California by boosting the snowpack that provides about a third of the state's water in normal years when it melts in warm, dry months.