(KTXL) — The first snow of the season in the central Sierra is expected to start overnight Thursday.
A mix of rain and snow is expected to begin between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday.
The snow will be most impactful between 6 a.m. and noon Friday, falling above 7,000 and 8,000 feet in elevation.
Snow totals will vary from a coating to 3 inches. Measurable amounts of snow will likely only be at mountain summits, mostly south of Highway 50.
Residual summer warmth will likely stop the snow from accumulating at lower elevations Friday.
An even colder air mass is expected to move into the region Monday and Tuesday, and snow levels could drop to the valley floors.
Andrew Schwartz, an atmospheric scientist with UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab based in Soda Springs, said snow in the Sierra now will not necessarily translate to a consistent snow season as the upcoming months go by.
“Current seasonal projections suggest that we are probably going to see lower than average precipitation throughout the next few months and probably into the spring as well, so it’s not looking favorable to pull us out of the drought currently, which is a little disappointing and a little frustrating. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed that that’s not the case,” Schwartz said.
In the meantime, the valley could see some rain early Friday morning.
California highway officials say they will close three mountain passes near the Nevada line between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park on Thursday as a precaution ahead of an early winter storm.
Caltrans officials said the road closures on routes off of U.S. Highway 395 will begin at noon Thursday on State Route 108 at Sonora Pass north of Bridgeport, California. State Route 89 at Monitor Pass south of Lake Tahoe will close at 2 p.m. and State Route 120 near Lee Vining, California at 5 p.m.
The snow will fade Friday afternoon, along with partial clearing.
Highways could reopen on Saturday after Caltrans crews evaluate conditions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.