Late, low snowstorm buries Tuolumne County

02/20/2013 11:30 AM

06/26/2013 2:32 PM

Tuolumne County was digging out Wednesday after a fast-moving snowstorm dumped several inches of snow Tuesday, closing schools and wreaking havoc for scores of drivers who spun out or abandoned their cars because of slick roads.

The storm dumped 8 inches of snow in Twain Harte and 9 inches at Cedar Ridge, both of which are at more than 3,500 feet. But it also brought snow to the lower elevations, including several inches in downtown Sonora.

The snow started in the early afternoon and was done by 7 p.m.

"The late snow and the low snow — that's what was truly amazing in this storm compared to other storms," said Deputy County Administrator Maureen Frank, adding that it's been a couple of years since the county last had a snowstorm of this magnitude.

Mymotherlode.com reported that more than 20 Tuolumne County schools were closed Wednesday, with about a half-dozen open. The schools are expected to reopen today.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt said several thousand customers in Tuolumne, Calaveras, Mariposa and Madera counties lost power in the storm. She said power had been restored for all of them except 170 in Sonora and Jamestown. Those customers were expected to have power restored later Wednesday.

There were no reports of fatalities or major injuries.

But the California Highway Patrol said a school bus driver on Highway 49 in Coulterville in Mariposa County lost control and slid down an embankment Tuesday afternoon. The bus turned onto its side. The CHP said there were 16 high school students on board. Four of them suffered minor to moderate injuries. The bus driver was hurt, too. But no one was taken to the hospital for treatment.

About 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, a tanker truck hauling gasoline east on Highway 108 jackknifed and overturned, spilling about 1,000 gallons of fuel. The single-vehicle accident happened about four miles west of Jamestown. The driver was not hurt.

Authorities closed Highway 108 in both directions at the accident scene and detoured traffic. That stretch of the highway was expected to be closed all day as crews cleaned up the spill.

California Highway Patrol officer Nick Norton said in both accidents, the drivers were traveling too fast for the conditions.

The winter storm from the Gulf of Alaska brought the first significant rainfall in several weeks to Northern California.

Periodic showers, including hail, hit the San Francisco Bay Area in time for Tuesday's morning commute, while snow fell in the Sierra Nevada.

The Modesto Irrigation District reported that the storm dropped 0.43 inches of rain in downtown Modesto, bringing the rainy season total to 8.34 inches.

The Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills can expect sun and higher temperatures through the weekend. Daytime highs for Modesto and other valley cities should climb to the low 60s by the weekend, with nighttime lows in the low to mid-30s.

Temperatures in the foothills should be a few degrees lower.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Dang said there is a slight chance for rain Saturday.

But authorities advised those driving in Tuolumne County over the next couple of days to use caution in the mornings. The morning roads could be icy as melting snow collects on roads, then freezes overnight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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