Storm updates 24th February-1st March 2023

The 20th storm of winter 2022/23, the second of two storms across three days, is currently impacting the San Jacinto mountains. Please check this page for periodic updates (the most recent is at the top). A significant triple storm system had a major impact on 21st-26th February, and those updates are posted below also.

UPDATE on Wednesday 1st March at 1930

A remarkable further 9.5 inches of snow fell in Idyllwild today, bringing the storm total to 19.5 inches, before largely stopping and the cloud cover partly clearing out near dusk. Highways into Idyllwild were closed today and may well be for some or all of tomorrow. Sadly weight of snow has caused the roof of one shop in town to collapse, and I saw one collapsed car port (with cars inside) under the dramatic volume of snow.

The snowfall of this 20th storm of the winter brings the seasonal total here to 71.8 inches of snow, which is 233% of the average water year snowfall for Idyllwild. About 46 inches have fallen in the past eight days.

The State Park has closed the wilderness due to the weather conditions, as described on their website here. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway/Long Valley remain open. Ironically the closure is due to “unprecedented snow fall”, although such snow fall was average prior to this century, and would have even been below average in the 1970s.

UPDATE on Wednesday 1st March at 0950

Storm number 20, and the last of a stunning first two months of 2023, produced another major snowfall with 10 inches overnight in Idyllwild, and it is still snowing heavily. When Anabel and I waded out for a modest walk, the snowplows seemed to be struggling to keep up on the streets, but we know they will catch up in due course. Forecasts suggest it may stop snowing in the next few hours. Long Valley (8600 ft) looks to have added about 12 inches since last night.

UPDATE on Tuesday 28th February at 1930

Today qualified as a day off from the incessant storms, although even then we managed a minor storm in Strawberry Valley (where Idyllwild is located), with two inches of fresh snowfall overnight and into the morning. The high country remained above the cloud for this one, with no fresh snowfall above about 8000 ft.

Largely a day for digging out again, and getting prepared for the next major snowfall, due tonight. Forecasts are inconsistent regarding the amount of snowfall in this next storm, but those that I trust suggest 12+ inches in Idyllwild over the next 24 hours, with 1-2 feet in the high country.

UPDATE on Monday 27th at 1910

Below is an excellent videograb of an avalanche in the Snow Creek drainage on the north face of San Jacinto Peak that was witnessed by friend of the Trail Report Catherine Peterson yesterday morning at about 0840. She was driving on Interstate 10 (and had to concentrate on the road!) but her friend Joyce Schwartz took some short videos from which this still image is taken.

The latest Trail Report (linked here) mentions the increasing avalanche risk with recent heavy wind-loaded snowfall on top of the icy pre-existing snow, and how avalanches occur every winter on the north face (contrary to erroneous information in recent local media stories). Conditions are currently excellent for avalanches on specific terrain in the San Jacinto high country, as proven below.

Avalanche on the north face of San Jacinto Peak, at about 0840 on 26th February 2023, as seen from Interstate 10. Videograb image courtesy of Joyce Schwartz, provided to the Trail Report by Catherine Peterson.

UPDATE on Monday 27th at 1140

We surveyed the PCT where it crosses Highway 74 (approx. PCT Mile 151) this morning, and recorded a short video available here on YouTube. This is the flattest portion of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains, and snow depth currently averages about 13 inches. As evident in the video, spikes are currently needed at least, and snowshoes would be ideal especially for sections that have not yet been traveled.

Yesterday afternoon we checked Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park, and measured an average snow depth of 26 inches. Snowshoes are very strongly recommended for any trails in, or leading to, the high country.

Further light snow is expected starting this evening, followed by much heavier snow overnight on 28th February-1st March.

PCT at about Mile 151 in the southernmost San Jacinto mountains, passing through 13 inches of snow depth, 27th February 2023.

UPDATE on Sunday 26th at 1220

An additional 5.5 inches of snow fell in Idyllwild overnight, rather more than forecast, meaning we had to dig out yet again this morning. It finally stopped snowing at about 0700, and some blue sky has resulted in spectacular vistas.

By my measurements, Idyllwild is up to 51 inches of snow to date for this winter, compared to the average for the thirty year period 1991-2020 of 31 inches. Bear in mind that half the winter total, 26 inches, have fallen in the past five days!

Tahquitz Peak and Tahquitz Rock (to the left) encased in deep snow, as seen from our street in Idyllwild, 26th February 2023.
South Circle Drive in Idyllwild, early morning on 26th February 2023, following nearly six inches of snow overnight, and more than two feet in the past few days.

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UPDATE on Saturday 25th at 1920

Steady heavy snow started in Idyllwild at about 0830 but stopped at about 1400. Very fine snow fell briefly this evening. An additional six inches of accumulation today brings the total in Idyllwild since 21st February to 20.5 inches. Forecasts suggest a further 2-3 inches are possible tonight.

It warmed last night to just above freezing below 6000 ft, with a mixture of rain and sleet falling on top of the prior snow, turning it increasingly to wet slush at mid elevations (we measured about 0.25 inch rain in Idyllwild). Long Valley added about 4-6 inches of snow overnight, and a little less than that during the day today.

UPDATE on Friday 24th at 1715

After a relatively benign day, it started snowing gently at 1340, and has become steady with large wet flakes in the past hour or so. Accumulation so far of about 0.5 inch in Idyllwild, and one inch at Long Valley.

Note that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has announced they will be closed tomorrow, Saturday 25th, due to “extreme weather”. See their announcement here. Many thanks to Florian Boyd for bringing this to my attention.

UPDATE on Friday 24th at 1210

I measured 15 inches of snow during a check of Devil’s Slide trailhead (6520 ft) at Humber Park this morning. I recorded a short video discussion there (available here on YouTube) which gives a feel for current conditions.

Snowshoes are recommended everywhere with snow above 4000 ft, potentially lower in places, and spikes are invaluable anywhere that has been cleared or compacted. I hope to provide more information on the high country situation on Sunday 26th, depending on conditions/weather.

UPDATE on Friday 24th at 0500

The story so far….. A minor storm on the night of Tuesday 21st (sixteenth storm of the winter) produced little snow – just an inch in Idyllwild – but severe cold and severe winds, erasing all tracks with wild drifting. This was immediately followed by a milder storm on 22nd-23rd that brought heavy snowfall with 13 inches in Idyllwild across a 30 hour period (measured at 5550 ft), and about 18 inches in Long Valley (8600 ft).

The eighteenth storm, due this evening, is an unusual atmospheric river combined with very cold air again, expected to produce heavy snowfall for 24th-25th February.

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