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How bad will it be? Big downpour possible for Sacramento ahead of Sierra snowstorm

In case you forgot: Here’s how to drive safely in winter weather

Caltrans offers tips for driving and traveling over the Sierra to Lake Tahoe in winter conditions of snow and rain.
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Caltrans offers tips for driving and traveling over the Sierra to Lake Tahoe in winter conditions of snow and rain.

The storm heading for Northern California will impact Sacramento and the valley sooner than previous forecasts expected, dropping light showers during the day Wednesday before heavy rain and moderate mountain snow start Wednesday night.

Already parts of midtown Sacramento, as well as the I-80 corridor in Yolo County are seeing traces of rain at 8 a.m.

Sacramento could get a downpour in the evening, with National Weather Service forecasts now showing between a half-inch and three-quarters of an inch of rain expected by the end of Wednesday. The heavier rounds of rain will start about 6 p.m. after showers in the morning and early afternoon, radar forecasts show.

The weather system blowing in from Alaska will also bring breezy winds to the Sacramento Valley and up to a foot of snow to the Sierra between Thursday and Friday.

Gusts, up to 20 mph in Sacramento and as high as 30 mph near Chico and Redding, will begin Wednesday afternoon into the evening.

Here’s more of what the latest forecasts are showing.

Sierra snow in May ‘not that rare’

NWS now advises that 6 to 12 inches of snow will likely fall throughout most of the Sierra, with localized amounts up to 2 feet possible.

Snow levels will drop as low as 5,500 feet Thursday after sticking above 7,000 feet Wednesday night, NWS says.

NWS Reno on Twitter referenced Tahoe City snow statistics in a tweet claiming that mid-May Sierra snow is “not that rare,” noting that snow measurable snow has fallen near Tahoe in May or June five times since 2010.

Still, a foot of snow has the potential to catch a lot of travelers off-guard. A winter storm watch has been issued Thursday through Friday morning, and NWS and Caltrans advise mountain drivers to carry chains.

Snow showers should start to dwindle after Friday morning, forecasts indicate.

Plan on a cold, wet Thursday

Though the heaviest rain is arriving ahead of what earlier forecasts showed, Sacramento will still see rain and a well-below-average high temperature on Thursday.

NWS predicts a high of just 65 degrees. The average for that date is 80, and the record cold max temperature is 63.

The capital region could see another quarter-inch of rain fall during the day Thursday, and a similar amount that evening, forecasts indicate.

There’s also a slight chance of thunderstorms across the valley, most likely after 11 a.m., that could push precipitation totals significantly higher and bring a chance of hail.

Sacramento could get as much as 2 inches of rain total between Wednesday and early Friday.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
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