Video shows man dug out of snow after avalanche at Squaw Valley
After four days of rain, snow and a spate of dangerous avalanches, Northern California's strongest storm of the season was expected to be largely over by Sunday.
After another wave of rain, snow and even a little hail moved into Northern California late Saturday, the National Weather Service said the four-day storm should give way to dry weather in the morning.
Sunday "should be basically clear," said Hannah Chandler, weather service meteorologist. "There could be a few snow showers over the Sierra, but otherwise for the rest of the area it should be dry. No more rain down here."
Saturday was dry early and wet late. Revelers at the eighth annual Capitol Beer Fest, on Capitol Mall in Sacramento, found themselves dodging rain drops. The National Weather Service extended until early Sunday a winter storm warning for much of the central and northern Sierra Nevada.
The day also brought another taste of the dangers inherent in a heavy mountain snowfall. Three people were rescued from a mid-morning avalanche at Mammoth Mountain ski resort in Mono County, southeast of Sacramento.
The avalanche occurred in a spot where resort workers were conducting avalanche control activities; the area had been closed for skiing but debris from the avalanche rolled to the bottom of the lift and into an area open to the public.
The resort closed for the day.
The incident came one day after five people were caught in an avalanche and a snowboarder from Rocklin was found dead, all at Squaw Valley. Squaw warned of "high to extreme" avalanche risks Saturday at its sister resort, Alpine Meadows, which received a record overnight snowfall of 29 inches.
Washoe County emergency officials issued an avalanche warning for the Crystal Bay, Nevada, area of Lake Tahoe's north shore.
The Sierra Avalanche Center said the avalanche risk throughout the area was listed as "considerable. " Brandon Schwartz, a forecaster with the center, said the "rate of accumulation" of snow in the past four days has made the Sierra particularly susceptible to avalanches.
Simply put, when snow piles up quickly, there isn't enough time for the structure of the pack to hold together and it becomes unstable, he said.
The snowfall amounts in the Sierra Nevada as of Saturday afternoon were impressive: 75 inches at Kirkwood ski resort since the storm began late Wednesday, with Soda Springs getting 59 inches, Kingvale 51 inches and Sugar Bowl 49 inches.
Sacramento, meanwhile, received 0.27 inches of rain during the 24 hours ending late Saturday, about the same as many cities in the Sacramento Valley.
The precipitation from the four-day storm helped Northern California partially overcome the dry weather that has many Californians worried the drought will resume.
But the region's "water deficit" remains considerable: In the space of four days, the Sierra snowpack grew from 23 percent of normal to 32 percent as of late Friday, according to the California Department of Water Resources. DWR's 8-station precipitation index, which measures a mix of rain and snow in the upper Sacramento Valley, was at 65 percent of normal for this time of year. It was at 57 percent before the storm began.