The holiday known for generating the most family travel time will likely see some of the worst travel conditions so far this year in Northern California. A bulletin issued Monday by the Redding National Weather Service office said low pressure will bring strong winds to the area, followed by rain and snow above 2,500 feet Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Kathleen Zontos, a hydrologist with NWS in Eureka, called the system, "the first big storm of the season,” adding that it’s expected to be followed by colder temperatures.
As of Monday, Zontos said predictions were still uncertain, but said it’s estimated that Oregon Mountain could see 4 to 8 inches of snow Tuesday night and possibly into Wednesday morning.
“Overall, the main impacts will be to those traveling to their Thanksgiving dinner destinations,” she said. “Tuesday will not be a great day to travel with all the rain, snow and wind hazards.”
Following that precipitation event, nighttime temps are expected to drop into the 20s, she said, making for icy road conditions.
“Looks like we’ll have another rain event by the weekend,” Zontos said, “and the cold temperatures will hang around through the week.”
A broader report from the NWS said a quick change in pressure will have more dramatic effects on Northern California than storms happening in the rest of the country. “An even stronger storm is expected to develop over the eastern Pacific and reach the West Coast by Tuesday night,” a NWS bulletin said Monday “This low pressure system will likely undergo bombogenesis (pressure drop of at least 24mb in 24 hours) from Monday night to Tuesday night, at which point it could become a 980 mb low with hurricane force winds offshore!”
The report said cold will bring lower than usual snow levels and winter storm watches were already in effect Monday for many areas.
Driving it home
Whether you are traveling to or away from the coast this weekend, Caltrans District 2 staff reminds drivers to prepare in advance of winter weather. Along with the somewhat obvious snow chains, ice scraper and shovel, Caltrans also recommends keeping your vehicle full of gas.
“It is also a good idea to bring water, snacks, a cell phone and charger, blankets, an ice scraper or shovel, and a spare key for your vehicle if possible,” a Caltrans bulletin said Monday. “Make sure your vehicle’s maintenance is up to date prior to travel. Also, make sure your tires have adequate tread and replace your windshield wipers if needed.”
Caltrans also recommends that you plan extra time for travel, as holiday traffic and weather will slow your journey. Check Caltrans Quickmap at http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ for information about closures, accidents and conditions, as well as open rest areas. Also watch for advisory signs and tune into radio information when advised.
California Highway Patrol advises to check your vehicle’s antifreeze and tires before embarking into winter weather. The latest road conditions for the state of California can be obtained by calling 1-800-GAS-ROAD.
Chains must be installed when signs indicate, and drivers can face fines or citations for failing to do so.
“Always carry chains. Make sure they are the proper size for your tires and are in working order. Carry a flashlight and chain repair links. Chains must be installed on the drive wheels. Make sure you know if your vehicle is front or rear wheel drive,” according to the CHP website.
“When you must put on chains, wait until you can pull completely off the roadway to the right. Do not stop in a traffic lane where you will endanger yourself and block traffic,” CHP advices. “If you use the services of a chain installer, be sure to get a receipt and jot the installer's badge number on it. Remember, chain installers are independent business people, not CHP employees. Having the badge number may help with any misunderstandings later.”
When removing chains, only do so when signs indicate the end of the chain-up area.