Rare snow falls on San Francisco’s Twin Peaks

Few things get sunshine-addicted Californians as excited as a little snow, and the white stuff came flittering down in San Francisco on Tuesday, with a dusting hitting Twin Peaks.

There was enough snow in the Santa Cruz Mountains and on Mt. Diablo to pack snowballs. Snow coated Mission Peak in Fremont and Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, as well as a Napa Valley vineyard on Atlas Peak. Even commuters on Livermore’s Vasco Road saw snow.

“It doesn’t snow often, but when it does, it’s absolutely breathtaking,” tweeted Pahlmeyer Vineyard Estates on Atlas Peak.

From the bay’s shoreline in San Mateo County’s Coyote Point Marina, harbormaster Mark Bettis could see an impressive coating of snow in the East Bay hills beyond the San Mateo Bridge.

While Bettis has seen the sight maybe half a dozen times since he came to the Bay Area in 1988, it was the first such sighting for a younger co-worker, park aide Adam Zuffi, 26. “I don’t recall ever looking across the bay and seeing snow,” Zuffi said.

The snow that hit Twin Peaks vanished by the time it touched the ground Tuesday. But that hasn’t always been the case.

The last time San Francisco was hit with far more impressive snow was exactly 43 years ago — Feb. 5, 1976 — when 5 inches of snow fell on San Francisco’s Twin Peaks and even an inch fell downtown, according to meteorologist Jan Null. Before that, on Feb. 5, 1887, 7 inches of snow fell on Twin Peaks. “Historically, February 5th is the snowiest day of the year in San Francisco and the Bay Area,” Null said in a blog post.

Snow falling on higher-elevation peaks in the Bay Area “doesn’t happen every year, but it can happen,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Suzanne Sims. Tuesday’s snow came from a cold storm fueled by air from Canada, she said.

The National Weather Service received reports of snowfall as low as 400 feet in the East Bay, and snow has been sticking to the ground at elevations as low as 1,500 feet, said weather service meteorologist Drew Peterson.


Trained spotters reported that snow showers left about a quarter-inch of snow around 1,600 feet and an inch at 2,700 feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Highway 17 between Monterey Bay and San Jose, he said.

“The fact that it is still sticking at 1,600 feet is impressive,” Peterson said. “It is really tough for it to stick to the ground because the ground is usually warmer.”

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