California is facing a historic snowstorm that has buried parts of the state in feet of snow and triggered a state of emergency, even in parts that are normally covered in sandy desert. Let’s explore why this rare and cold storm happened and how it affected California’s weather and people. We will also look at some of the snowiest places in the state right now, from beaches to mountains and everywhere in between.
A Truly Historic Snowstorm
The winter storm that hit California in late February 2023 was one of the most powerful and unusual in recent history. It brought blizzard conditions, heavy rain, flooding, and power outages to millions across the state. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in 13 counties, including hard-hit San Bernardino County, where some residents remained trapped inside their homes after feet of snow buried their neighborhoods.
What caused this rare and cold storm? According to meteorologists, it was a combination of several factors that aligned perfectly. First, there was a deep dip in the jet stream, also known as a trough, which carved out across the state and steered storms that way. Second, there was a pocket of cold air at the upper levels of the atmosphere, along with a potent package of energy in the form of atmospheric spin. Third, plenty of moisture came from the Pacific Ocean that fed into the storm system, giving it all the fuel it needed for a, well, perfect storm.
Most of the time, storms lose their moisture by the time they hit Southern California, but this simply wasn’t the case this year. Photos of snowy beaches and white-capped mountains surrounding LA are already circulating as people look in shock as a generally desert/arid climate gets sprinkled in white.
The Snowiest Place in California
In the past 24 hours, the snowiest place in the state was Palisades Tahoe, California. In only a single day, the region received 38 inches of snow, two inches more than the closest competitors, Soda Springs and Central Sierra Snow Lab. In the past two days, the snowiest place has been Soda Springs, which has accumulated around 52 total inches of snow, or over four feet. Over the storm, places like Huntington Lake in the Sierra Nevada have seen 144 inches of snow, or between 10-12 total feet depending on the region. In Southern California, 106 inches have been recorded, an astonishing number for places like Los Angeles’ Mount Baldy.
Ski and snowboard enthusiasts all over the state are lining up, but in places that aren’t as prepared for this snowy weather, the infrastructure issues are apparent. Avalanches (Olympic Valley) and road blockages have caused people to be trapped in homes and unable to go to work or access services.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © John Dvorak/Shutterstock.com
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