Rare snowfall and freeze warning in Napa Valley leads to closed roads and power outages
NAPA, Calif. - It was a surprise for many residents in the North Bay to see a rare snow flurry on Friday turn wine country into a winter wonderland.
"Snow like this, it's probably been since about early 2000's," said Jerry Fechter who lives in the Calistoga Hills.
Snowflakes covered the slopes surrounding Napa Valley and in Sonoma County. The cold temperatures meant the snow stayed on the ground instead of melting, even at low elevations.
Petrified Forest Road on the mountains between Napa Valley and Sonoma County had snow on the shoulder and up the hills.
Highway 29 over Mount Saint Helena was closed due to snow and fallen trees.
Napa County's Office of Emergency Services issued a shelter in place advisory.
"We want people to be cautious because of the recent weather and the impact on the roads specifically in the unincorporated parts of the county...especially west of Highway 29 and east of Silverado Trail," said Linda Ong the Napa County Public Information Officer.
A freeze warning was extended into Saturday morning, so CHP officers warned that even the slightest snowmelt or water on the roads could turn treacherous.
"If we get down to those freezing temperatures even at lower elevations, we can very quickly start seeing ice patches," said Officer Andrew Barclay, a California Highway Patrol spokesman, "Watch those speeds. If all of those tires hit that ice, you're going to be spinning."
Communities concerned about those without a warm home have opened warming shelters in places such as Santa Rosa.
"We've had upwards of 70-80 people come in," said Kelli Kuykendall, the Santa Rosa Housing and Community Services Manager, who says the city partners with Catholic Charities to run a warming center during extreme weather events.
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So far, Santa Rosa has opened the shelter 15 times and with this winter's wild weather, greater need is adding unexpected costs.
"We budgeted 34,000 for this year. At the end of this week we will have exhausted that," said Kuykendall, "So we'[ll be looking for additional resources if this weather pattern continues."
For some, the snowflakes' silver lining was seeing children relishing the rare joy of sledding so close to home.
"We often go to Reno, Truckee, Lake Tahoe, but we only had to drive 20 minutes today," said Jose Gutierrez of Napa Valley who was sledding with children on a slope in Angwin, about 20 miles north of Napa.
"It's beautiful. It's Napa Valley, Angwin, we don't expect this at all. We never get this," said Gutierrez.
Parts of Angwin lost power, putting residents in the cold and dark Friday night. Power crews said the road conditions were snowy and treacherous, making it difficult to access places with downed lines. They hope to have power restored Saturday.