Snow-capped peaks

Snow-capped peaks in the Santa Lucia Mountains, viewable from Big Sur on Sunday, Dec. 26.

It was a snowy Christmas in Monterey County, at least at high elevations, and snow is predicted to continue accumulating overnight from Monday into Tuesday, Dec. 28. 

It's not uncommon for snow to fall on the high peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountains during winter storms, but a combination of precipitation and chilly temperatures tonight, Dec. 27, means the snow level is expected to drop to 1,500 feet, with a rain/snow combination as low as 1,000 feet. By Tuesday midday, as temperatures rise, the snow level is expected to return to 2,500 feet.

(For context, Jacks Peak in Monterey is 1,068 feet in elevation; Mount Toro along Highway 68 is about 3,550 feet. Monterey County's tallest point, Junipero Serra Peak in the Los Padres National Forest, is 5,857 feet.)

While the rain is expected to take a pause starting Wednesday morning, cold temperatures throughout the weekend (with highs of the mid-30s to low 40s) mean snow has a good chance of sticking around in higher terrain, above 2,500 feet, according to Eleanor Dhuyvetter, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's station in Monterey.

"It shouldn't do too much as far as melting goes," Dhuyvetter says. "Higher elevations should continue to see snow into the weekend."

While the National Weather Service does not have official measurements on snow accumulation thus far on Monterey County's high peaks, 2 to 6 inches of snow are forecast through Wednesday. Snow in the Gabilan Mountains and Santa Lucia Mountains was already visible from the Salinas Valley floor on Dec. 26. 

It's expected to be a drier weekend over New Year's than it was for Christmas, but Dhuyvetter says it will still feel like winter, before rain is predicted to start again the week of Jan. 3. "Once the rain kind of shuts off Wednesday, temperatures will dip," she says. "We are preparing for colder overnight lows." 

Total precipitation so far this year is higher than average. As of 4pm on Sunday, Dec. 26, the National Weather Service reports 5.43 inches of precipitation at the Salinas Municipal Airport, which is 150 percent of normal, and 7.82 inches at Monterey Regional Airport, which is 164 percent of normal.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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