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California's Sierra Nevada Residents Prepare for Up to 3 Feet of Snow

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In early March, Jenelle Potvin's home in Truckee, Nevada County, was under multiple feet of snow. She hired a friend's snow removal company to dig her house's yard, patio and walkways out of the fresh powder. (Courtesy Jenelle Potvin)

Jenelle Potvin loves running through a snowstorm to photograph its beauty.

“Some of my footage made the NBC Nightly News,” she said of an early March storm that buried her home in multiple feet of snow, which her dogs loved.

She’s already preparing her home in Truckee for about 1 foot of snow meteorologists forecast for her neighborhood this weekend. The looming storm could drop up to 3 feet of snow over the crest of the Sierra Nevada.

When a storm is on its way, Potvin does three things: She cancels her plans, checks in with any Airbnb guests who rent out an extra room in her house and cleans all the dog poop from her yard so it doesn’t freeze under the snow.

Potvin is positively antsy for the storm to begin Friday.

“It’s been sunny and really enjoyable, but we’re looking forward to a little storm,” she said.

The first spring storm comes nearly three weeks after a cold weather pattern dropped more than 12 feet of snow across the Sierra. On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the Northern and Central Sierra.

Forecasters expect significant travel delays this weekend on major highways due to snow, icy roads and strong winds. But for outdoor adventurists, another storm is a chance to shred some powder.

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“We can cross-country ski or snowshoe right from our house if there’s enough snow,” Potvin said.

Resorts like Palisades Tahoe, northwest of Lake Tahoe, are looking forward to more than 1 1/2 feet of snow this weekend, especially since the snow year started abysmal at best. In January, snow totals across the Sierra measured around 25% of the average, but now are at 99% of the average for this time of year.

“We had an 8-foot storm that really put us over the top,” said Patrick Lacey, PR manager for Palisades Tahoe, remembering the early March storm that temporarily shut ski resorts down across the mountain range

But as a result, he said, “the skiing is absolutely phenomenal. It’s been firing out there.”

The extra feet of snow the storm could drop this weekend is good news for the snowpack, which cities and farms rely on as a frozen reservoir for water supplies as it melts into rivers, streams and reservoirs.

“This is a good average season for us,” Lacey said. “We can definitely expect a good amount of snow this weekend.”

The storm anticipated to start Friday won’t be as intense as the snowfall that covered the Sierra in a thick blanket of white in early March. Still, National Weather Service meteorologist Sara Purdue encourages travelers to take extra precautions this weekend.

“It’s certainly not an unusual storm in terms of intensity, but make sure you have chains, snacks and warm clothes in case you have to pull over for a time,” she said.

Purdue forecasts thunderstorms at lower elevations and in the Bay Area, where the windy storm could drop as much as an inch-and-a-half of rain.

In positive news for building the snowpack, Purdue said a few more storms could bring more snow by the end of the month.

“While they don’t look like intense storms, we could see more rain, snow and wind,” she said.

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