Mountain snow in holiday forecast


The cold Pacific winter storm that will spread southward (today (Friday, Dec. 23) is expected to continue through Saturday. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and there will be a white Christmas in the local Tulare County mountains. 
Snow levels are expected to drop to 3,000 feet by Friday night so that should mean more than a foot of the white stuff in and around the Giant Forest (elevation 6,400 feet). Those stormy conditions are welcome news for the handful of roadside businesses who cater to park visitors that are required to have snow chains. 
“Last year the winter storms were perfectly timed with the holiday weekends,” said Greg Lockhart, owner of Totem Market. “During Christmas and New Year’s, the Totem set all-time records for its best days.”
Lockhart said he expects more of the same this year in the aftermath of the Christmas Eve storm. There is a slight chance for another storm in the New Year’s weekend forecast.
Last week’s warm storm (December 15-16) brought 3.50 inches of rainfall to Three Rivers and 4.85 inches of rainfall to Lodgepole (6,700 feet). The temperature at Lodgepole was 41 degrees, way too warm for snow.
The fast-moving deluge caused a sudden rise in the Kaweah River. On Friday, Dec. 16, Middle Fork river flows peaked at 3,600 cubic feet per second. Contrast those flows with January 2, 1997 (56,595 cfs), and December 23, 1955 (80,700 cfs).  
This year’s December storms have the current water year looking a little more like 2015-2016, an above average year. By the end of 2016, Three Rivers will have recorded 8 inches of rainfall. 
In comparison, on December 27, 2015, the local total was 10.29 inches. The season total for 2015-2016 was 24.56 inches.
Updated regional forecasts for the first quarter of 2017 are predicting near normal in both precipitation and temperature. Unfortunately, that means snow pack will be virtually non-existent below 7,000 feet but piling up in the higher elevations as predicted to be the norm during climate change.
On Thursday, Dec. 22, the storage at Lake Kaweah eclipsed 25,000 acre feet. Currently, the lake level is rising at a rate of 1,000 acre feet per day and that trend will continue throughout the holiday period.  
WEATHER WATCH: 'Tis the season for freezin'
A couple of the early mornings this past week experienced temperatures that dipped into the 20s. The Christmas weekend and the coming week will continue to be chilly, both day and night, with a slight warming trend toward the end of the week.
Be sure to check out the moon in the early morning hours. It is currently being tailed by Jupiter and the constellation Virgo’s brightest star, Spica.
Free shuttle in Sequoia
If wanting to experience a winter wonderland without the driving, all Sequoia National Park visitors have to do is get themselves to the Giant Forest Museum then hop aboard the free Winter Shuttle. 
Beginning today (Friday, Dec. 23) and continuing through Sunday, Jan. 1, the shuttle will make rounds between the museum and Wuksachi Lodge. Stops in between include the General Sherman Tree, Lodgepole, and the Wolverton snowplay area.   

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