Northern California Storm Brings Heavy Snow

A winter storm warning starts tonight for the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

A foot of snow can be expected at lake level around Tahoe, and 1-2 feet above 7000 feet.

In Reno there is no winter weather watch or warning, but winds will increase through the night and a total of 1 inch of sloppy snow can be expected tonight through Thursday.

A snow advisory starts at 4pm for Humbolt and Northern Elko counties. Six inches of snow can be expected for the lower elevations.

It also prompted flash-flood warnings in fire-scarred parts of
Southern California and was hindering efforts to find a father and
his three children, who disappeared over the weekend in a Northern
California forest.

The downpour that started Monday is part of a storm wave that is
expected to bring rain and snow to California into the new year.

"It's actually a pretty active pattern," Kyle Mozley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Reno, Nev., office said Tuesday.

"It looks like this could be a pretty good white Christmas. It's just one storm after another. The ski resorts are happy about that."

The first wave brought about an inch of rain across Northern California on Monday and Tuesday.

Since July 1, California has received 61 percent of its normal precipitation, a worrisome sign for state water managers after the
state had its lowest snowpack in 19 years last winter.

Reservoirs were at 83 percent of average for Dec. 1, compared to 121 percent at the same time last year.

State water officials have worried that a second winter of below-average precipitation would further strain the state's water-delivery system and force rationing.

"We're always happy to see rain here," state hydrologist Maury Roos said. "(The storm) doesn't get us up to normal for this time of year, but a couple more of these will help."

Forecasters say a La Nina weather pattern likely means a wet winter for the Pacific Northwest and scarce rain in Southern California, where conditions are so dry that Pasadena declared a water emergency on Monday.

A La Nina occurs when air cools over the Pacific and the jet stream is pushed farther north.

Despite that long-term forecast, Southern California was benefiting from this week's storm.

The region received rain Tuesday that prompted flash flood warnings in areas burned by wildfires this fall.

There were no evacuations, but the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa opened to shelter residents' large animals and Orange County Animal Care Services offered to house dogs and cats for residents of denuded canyons that are vulnerable to mudslides.

There were similar warnings in fire-damaged areas during storms in early December.

Flooding has not been a concern with the latest storm, as rivers in northern and central California were just beginning to register the rainfall, Roos said.

Much of the precipitation is falling as snow in the Sierra.

Tuesday's steady snowfall prompted the California Highway Patrol to require chains or snow tires across all major Sierra routes.

"It's a vacationer's dream come true because it's happening right before a major holiday," said Rachael Woods, spokeswoman for the Alpine Meadows and Homewood ski resorts in north Lake Tahoe.

"I think for skiers and (snowboard) riders, we're in for the long haul now."

Several feet of snow is expected at higher elevations the next few days, with a foot or more at Lake Tahoe, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm was complicating efforts to find a Northern California family that disappeared Sunday about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

Nearly 50 rescuers were searching for Frederick Dominguez, 38, and his children, Christopher, 18, Alexis, 14, and Joshua, 12.

The family, from Paradise, had set out to cut a Christmas tree.

Dominguez's pickup truck was found Monday night parked along a mountain road about 25 miles northeast of Chico.

More than a foot of snow had fallen in the area by Tuesday afternoon.

The family was not equipped to spend the night outdoors, with temperatures in the upper 20s, Paradise Police Sgt. Steve Rowe said.

Rescuers described the area as rugged, marked by steep canyons.

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