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Winter weather looks more like spring – and planting time – in Sacramento region

This NOAA satellite image shows a long line of storms well into the Pacific Ocean that won’t make it into California because of a high-pressure system that has set up shop over the West and isn’t budging for a while. The result? Clear skies and record high temperatures.
This NOAA satellite image shows a long line of storms well into the Pacific Ocean that won’t make it into California because of a high-pressure system that has set up shop over the West and isn’t budging for a while. The result? Clear skies and record high temperatures. Associated Press

Apparently, an early spring is this winter’s valentine.

A warm high-pressure system may be causing snow to melt and ski resort operators to sweat in the Sierra Nevada. But sunny, comfortable days – with high temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s throughout the week – will have people in the Sacramento Valley continuing to enjoy the outdoors, and likely getting an early jump on gardening.

“We have a big, strong (warm) ridge over us, that’s for sure,” said National Weather Service forecaster Johnnie Powell in Sacramento. “That means high pressure and a big dome of air that nothing can penetrate. It means sinking air, and sinking air warms up.”

Over the Valentine’s Day weekend, Sacramento warmed up to 73 degrees on Sunday, with a not-so-chilly low of 48 degrees. High temperatures are forecast for the low 70s on Monday and Tuesday and the upper 60s to low 70s throughout the week – with no rain in sight.

While ski resorts worry and Central Valley farmers fret over drought-sapped water supplies, some used the unseasonably warm weekend to get an early start at planting spring flowers.

“When it’s sunny and warm, people are more into the mood to want to plant more things,” said Quentyn Young, nursery manager at the Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery in Sacramento. “Most customers know that this is a good time of the year to plant trees and shrubs and edibles. But they’re also looking to plant fresh colors with flowers ... and get an early start on warm-season vegetables.”

Young said the nursery’s business is up 40 percent, mostly due to the improving economy but also as a result of Sacramento’s balmy winter weather.

“There is an upside to sunny, warm weather,” he said.

Up in the Sierra Nevada, the 1- to 3-foot snow base is well below normal at the Homewood Mountain Resort overlooking Lake Tahoe. But general manager Kevin Mitchell said there are other benefits.

On Sunday, patrons at the resort’s mid-mountain Big Blue Bar were sitting outside in the sun, enjoying the spectacular scenery as others took in some spring-style skiing.

“It’s gorgeous,” Mitchell said. “People are out here enjoying the snow and the sun. It’s spring skiing, early.”

Powell of the NWS said February is normally a transition month, when days get longer and temperatures rise in the Sacramento Valley. But this year, temperatures are about 10 degrees higher than normal.

“February usually brings longer days in the Valley, and we always tease the groundhog a bit,” Powell said, referring to the upside-down conditions. “But this year is warmer, and we need a ‘rain hog’ here.”

Powell said people might as well start acting as if it is spring.

“Start thinking about your yards and getting them ready,” he said. “Aerate the grass. Do those little things. Start planting tomato seeds inside.”

But, he added: “That’s not going to mean it’s not going to rain in March. The pattern could change.”

Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.

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