Heavy storm lifting skiers’ moods 

A winter storm that has local cities preparing sandbags and clearing storm drains comes as a welcome relief to skiers, resort employees and water district officials, as nature steps in to take the burden off of snowblowers in the Sierras.

The National Weather Servicehas forecast varying levels of rain for the next week, including heavy rain predicted for today in the Bay Area. Rain and snow are forecast for the rest of the week around Lake Tahoe, with snow mainly falling this weekend.

At Sugar Bowl in Norden, it started snowing a few hours before noon Wednesday. Marketing manager Kristin York said the resort is hoping to have a solid natural layer of snow for visitors within a week.

"Hopefully, it will salvage the Presidents’ Day weekend for ski resorts," York said. "That’s traditionally a busy week and weekend up here."

York noted the first weekend with snow is not typically as busy as subsequent days because many visitors stay home until they know roads are open and plowed.

Cold nights have helped preserve what little snow has fallen in the Sierras for skiers, and many resorts have been making snow to cover their runs.

"The snow making has been great, but we’re excited to have Mother Nature helping us out," North Star communications manager Jessica VanPernis said.

Along with the skiers and snowboarders, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is looking forward to the coming storm dumping snow in the mountains, which will then melt and run off into the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the spring and summer.

"The Sierra snowpack, which is at only about 40 percent of its normal volume right now, is really important to us, so we’re hoping the next several days of heavy storms will help us catch up," said Tony Winnicker, director of communications for the SFPUC.

"When it comes to our water supply, we hope to have a really wet February to make up for what we didn’t get in January," he added.

Hetch Hetchy provides 85 percent of San Francisco’s water and contributes to the water supplies of much of the Peninsula and South Bay.

"Every drop does help, but even if we just get average waterfrom here out, it will still be a dry year. It will take above normal precipitation for the rest of the year to get to a normal level," said Arthur Hinojosa, chief of hydrology for the California Department of Water Resources.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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