Snow hits close to home in the Bay Area


Photo used with permission from Agastya Pawate.

Some long-distance track team members took a two-mile hike through the snowy forest.

Nicole Ge, Staffer

On Feb. 21, a rare snowstorm hit parts of all nine counties in the Bay Area. Road closures and traffic troubled some while others were thrilled to experience the snowfall — for many, their first sighting in the area.

For the first time in 12 years, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Bay Area. The snowstorm primarily hit the mountains, but some lower elevations were also affected. 

“I had only seen snow on the beach once before — that was probably 15 to 20 years ago and it had only stayed for a few hours,” English teacher Maggie Welsh said. “This time, there was an accumulation of snow that stuck around the beach for a day or two.”

The snow was an attraction for many, especially for those who had never experienced snow before. History teacher Nate Martell took this opportunity to revel in the snow with family and friends.

“We went to visit my grandmother near Auburn, who had been sending us pictures and videos of snow dumping on her house all morning,” Martell said. “My oldest daughter enjoyed sledding, but she and her sister mostly wanted to build snowmen. They’re big fans of ‘Frozen’ and we made Olaf, the snowman from the movie, on the deck.”

Junior Agastya Pawate and other members of the long-distance track team traveled to Sanborn County with the intention of running through a trail with snow. However, they were taken aback by the immense accumulation of snow at the trail’s base, which prompted a change in plans. The group took a two-mile hike through the forest instead of their intended eight-mile run. They reported the first half-mile of the trek to be strenuous, with numerous fallen trees and a thick layer of snow making the path steeper.

“We kept picking up snowballs and throwing them at each other,” Pawate said. “There was a very thick layer of snow at the top of the trail so we laid down and made snow angels and slid down a snow hill onto the frozen lake.”

Their excitement escalated from snowball fights to playfully shoving snow down each other’s shirts and wrestling in the snow. 

“This was a great experience and definitely something that I’ll remember for a long time — both because of how fun it was and also because of the rarity of such an opportunity,” Pawate said. “Being from Illinois, where it snows a ton every winter, this was somewhat of a nostalgic event because I hadn’t been in true snow since I’d moved from there.”

Unfortunately, the snowstorm also caused several road closures and power outages. Highway 17, a major transportation route for teachers living in Santa Cruz, was closed due to snow as thick as six inches on the road. The sudden arrival of the snowstorm was unexpected for some, and led to more dangerous conditions on higher roads.

En route to visit his in-laws in San Luis Obispo, Japanese teacher Jeremy Kitchen and his family were faced with the harsh conditions of the sudden snowstorm near Death Valley. Within a mere 10-mile stretch, they witnessed two tractor trailers completely overturned due to high winds, with one completely upside down on the road. As the snowfall increased and visibility decreased, the family relied on following a truck in front of them, to safely navigate out of the snow. 

“We drove for about twenty minutes in those conditions, and then the sky suddenly cleared and we descended out of the snow,” Kitchen said. “It was only later that we found out that they closed the pass minutes after we went through because of multiple collisions and a jack-knifed truck.”

An atmospheric river storm is forecasted to impact the Bay Area through early March, potentially bringing heavy amounts of rainfall and a heightened risk of flooding. Calif.’s weather this winter is indicative of the unpredictable nature of climate change. 

While the sudden snowstorm in the Bay Area brought excitement to many who enjoyed the opportunity to play in the snow, it also caused inconvenience and danger to others. An unforgettable experience, it marks a harsh reality of changes to the local climate.