Snow in San Francisco? Still a chance

Might being the operative word.

An unsettled cold air mass dropping from the Gulf of Alaska will bring colder temperatures and periods of rain to the San Francisco Bay Area, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. The mass could drop any snow amounts to sea level.

That likely means snow at higher elevations and -- possibly -- light snow to downtown San Francisco for the first time since 1976, said Bob Benjamin, a weather service forecaster in Monterey.

"I really won't say it's not going to happen, if we do experience snow, you may see it in the air, but it will likely be gone before it hits the ground," Benjamin said.

However, the snow could likely stick to metal surfaces up in San Francisco's Twin Peaks, as well as the Hills in neighboring Oakland, he added.

"It's so rare," Benjamin said. "Any snow will be temporary. Probably long enough to take a picture, if you have a camera with a fast shutter."

Showers in the area are expected to start Thursday, peaking on Friday with more rain on Saturday. Highs are expected to be only in the 30s by Saturday, conditions just right for rain to possibly turn into snow.

Overnight lows are expected to also be in the 30s on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Bay Area has already seen snow on some of its mountain peaks after a nearly four inches of precipitation, last week.

Snow in the South Bay

Snow is expected in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Thursday night and crews are very worried about both the roads there and Friday morning's commute. Crews are already trying to do everything they can to prepare.

Caltrans is filling up all eight trucks they have in the area with sand. The will use it on the roads if and when they become icy, hoping to keep people from sliding too much. They have called in three people to work overnight and they are hoping drivers will be patient with them and not add to their troubles.

"Basically, the most issues I have, it's not really a problem with the snow or the ice on the travel way, it's the motorists coming out to look at the snow," said Russ Ellingworth with Caltrans. "That's my biggest headache. We're trying to keep the highways open and it includes all of Santa Cruz state highways, we're trying to keep open. But, when motorists come out, they want to enjoy the snow, but yet, they're infringing on our work details."

The California Highway Patrol is expecting more accidents during the storm and has shifted officers around so they will have patrols during the worst of the weather. They say the best advice for drivers is not to panic. If you lose control, panicking always makes it worse. Try and keep your head. Officers say they know it will be rough, but they have a lot of faith in the locals.

"People live in the area. They know what to expect. It's snowed before in Santa Cruz," said CHP Officer Marty Cardenas. "Not too often, but the rainy season… most people are prepared for it. Usually, the tourists, the out-of-towners, are the ones who get stuck in the rain and snow, and end up sliding off the road."

One way drivers can help road crews is by not parking in the areas sand trucks use to pull off highways.

The San Lorenzo Valley School District doesn't anticipate road closures or cancelled classes, but is prepared for the unexpected.

"We do have a new emergency phone messaging system in the district where we can call every family in the district cell phone, home phone all of that to let them know school is closed," said Shannon Calden, principal at San Lorenzo Valley Elementary.

Ten warming centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday throughout San Jose in the following areas: Almaden, Berryessa, Camden, Evergreen, Seven Trees, Mayfair, Roosevelt, Southside and Cypress community and centers and the Willows Senior Center. For more information, the city's call center can be reached at (408) 535-3500.

Preparations in the North Bay

First responders in Novato met Thursday to hammer out a plan to deal with any emergencies that could arise over the next few days as a result of the cold, stormy weather.

In San Rafael, beginning at 4 a.m., the Department of Public Works will have crews driving sand trucks. The idea is to pour the sand on the black ice -- a thin sheet of ice stuck to the pavement, almost impossible to see.

When weather conditions get bad, the fire department receives 10 times the number of 911 calls. The emergency operations center may be activated to better serve the community.

The Novato Fire Department wants residents to be prepared during this cold snap.

"What we're worried about are broken water pipes on the exteriors. So we're folks to shut off their exterior water, like their garden hoses and things like that," said Novato Deputy Fire Chief Eric Nickel. "And any sort of home fires -- so what we're advising folks to do right is to check their smoke alarms and their carbon monoxide alarms."

In downtown San Rafael, the homeless will be offered shelter. the st. vincent de paul society and the county will provide extra beds. shuttle buses will pick people up in downtown san rafael on third street from 4 to 6pm.

"We're going to have additional capacity, another 20 people that we're going to be able to house and the county has allowed us to use the wellness center for those additional people." Steven Boyer with St. Vincent De Paul Society-Marin County.

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