NORTH FORK — Mountain area residents awoke Wednesday morning to a chilly, wintry landscape, with the season’s first dusting of snow creating challenging travel conditions but a scenic backdrop for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Residents in the North Fork and O’Neals area reported more than an inch of the fluffy white stuff had fallen overnight but as Wednesday morning dawned, the snow had turned to a rainy drizzle.
The pre-Thanksgiving storm is expected to linger in the region for the next several days, according to the National Weather Service, which is predicting snow levels could drop as low as 1,500 feet by late Thursday and into Friday morning.
“A Winter Storm arriving this afternoon and tonight will bring snow levels down to 3500 to 4000 feet tonight with snow levels lowering to near 2000 feet by Thursday morning,” according to an advisory issued late Tuesday by the National Weather Service’s Hanford office.
“This [storm] will impact Yosemite National Park with 1 to 3 feet of snow above 5000 feet and snow accumulating in Yosemite Valley and Highway 41 leading into the Park tonight through Thursday,” the advisory stated. “Significant snow accumulation will make travel exceptionally hazardous or nearly impossible. If you plan to travel, consider alternate strategies.”
Those planning to travel over the holiday week can check Caltrans’ 24-hour hotline (800-427-7623) for updates on road conditions, including closures or delays.
The storm has also cut power to several thousand Valley PG&E customers but so far those outages appear to be mostly in the Fresno area.
The California Highway Patrol is currently reporting hazardous travel conditions along Interstate 5 over the Grapevine, with traffic being escorted by CHP officers.
Currently, the number one and two lanes of southbound Interstate 5 are closed at Laval Road due to flooding, according to the latest information from CHP, with no estimated time of reopening.
“The roads are slick, all that oil that has built up through the year ends up coming up to the surface and it causes less friction for tires,” said Gregorio Rodriguez, public information officer for Madera County CHP.
Public safety officials are encouraging residents to slow down and maintain extra distance between vehicles on slick or snow-covered roads — and to be patient and increase estimated travel times for the next several days.