Feb. 5, 1887: Snow on Shotwell Street in San Francisco's Mission District (San Francisco Chronicle, via FoundSF).
Feb. 5, 1887: Snow on Shotwell Street in San Francisco’s Mission District (San Francisco Chronicle, via FoundSF).

This is getting to be familiar, if not old: It was really cold again this morning throughout the Bay Area. The National Weather Service has a complete list of the coldest temperatures seen throughout the region through 7 a.m. The highlights: Napa Airport: 16; Angwin, a little town on Howell Mountain between Calistoga and Pope Valley, 13; San Ramon, 23; San Jose airport, 30. It was 40 in San Francisco. You get the picture.

Let’s turn now to what could happen next. A storm is on the way, and forecasters say rain could begin late this afternoon from San Francisco north. The weather system isn’t a big deal in rainfall terms, with less than an inch expected. But the weather service has issued a winter weather advisory for parts of the Bay Area. The storm could bring 2 to 4 inches of snow to elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above sea level and 6 inches to areas above 3,000 feet. The National Weather Service summary of the impact: Roadways above 2,500 feet will become snow or slush covered and slippery.”

Where are those places above 2,000 feet? Mount Hamilton (just over 4,200 feet) and the surrounding Diablo Range to the north, west, and south; Mount Diablo (3,849 feet); the Santa Cruz Mountains; the Coast Range up the Peninsula; and Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. The Berkeley-Oakland Hills top out at 1,900 feet.

So: A lot of us will see snow on the surrounding peaks, and a few of us will drive up to see if there’s enough of the frozen stuff to have a snowball fight.

Of course, if it snows in the hills, what are the chances we’ll see some at sea level. Very, very small.

The last time it snowed down to the water was in February 1976. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub recounted that in a very cool little blog feature he did a couple years ago, “A Century of Snow in San Francisco.” He put together a slideshow from the Chron’s photo archives going back to the 1880s. The history he relates confirms snow is a rare event in lowland Bay Area locations; but when it does happen, boy, is it beautiful.

And if you need more proof, here’s some from fellow News Fix blogger Jon Brooks: “When It Snowed in San Francsico: The Photos.”

  • Mary Mactavish

    Don’t forget the Mount Hamilton cams for fun snow watching. (Easy to find: google “ham cam.”)


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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