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 is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

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