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Clear skies ahead for holiday weekend in Sonoma County, Tahoe

Christa Teitelbaum of Glen Ellen, left, and Elaine Dengler of Santa Rosa hike with a group of about 100 hikers through a terraced vineyard on the Kunde Estate in Kenwood on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013.

Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 5:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 5:52 p.m.

Shirtsleeve warmth at home, deep snow in the Sierra and sunny blue skies over both places should make for an ideal winter holiday weekend, perhaps marred only by gasoline scraping close to $4 a gallon.

Saturday should be the most spring-like of all, with daytime highs in or near the 70s in Sonoma County, about 10 degrees above average, the National Weather Service said.

“Hard to complain about that,” meteorologist Austin Cross said.

The forecast for Santa Rosa is 68 Saturday and 63 on Sunday, both sunny days, followed by a partly cloudy 58 degrees on President's Day.

Rain showers are expected on Tuesday, amounting to one-quarter of an inch in Santa Rosa, with a chance of added precipitation Wednesday and Thursday, Cross said.

That could be considered a drawback, except the city has had only 1.25 inches since Jan. 1.

“We do sort of need it,” Cross said.

There's also a chance of thunderstorms and small hail Tuesday as a storm system approaches from the Gulf of Alaska.

Meanwhile, the absence of weekend storms means the highways are clear to the Sierra, where Alpine Meadows near Tahoe City has a seven-foot base of snow at upper elevations.

“It's a great weekend to get out,” Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Jenny Kendrick said.

Resorts are running on machine-groomed and rider-packed snow, with no fresh white stuff since late last week.

“We don't have powder,” Kendrick said, but the slopes are well-covered and otherwise “looking good,” she said.

President's Day weekend is typically a “winter sports holiday,” said Cynthia Harris of AAA Northern California. Highway traffic picked up on Thursday, she said, as many people got away for a four-day weekend.

The Tahoe area and Utah are popular snow destinations, with Bear Valley becoming an alternative for those seeking smaller crowds, Harris said.

Gasoline prices may curb some travel plans, with the cost of a gallon of regular gas hitting $3.98 on Friday in Santa Rosa, up more than 40 cents in the past month, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report.

The cheapest gas in Santa Rosa was $3.85 on Friday, according to the GasBuddy.com website. Cheapest in South Lake Tahoe was $3.97 and $4.19 in Truckee.

To beat the homecoming traffic jam, Harris recommended leaving the snow country before noon or after 7 p.m. on Monday.

For those staying at home and eyeing the garden, it's time for pruning and spraying dormant fruit trees and for planting frost-hardy crops like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and chard, said Scott Mcphee at Harmony Farm Supply near Sebastopol.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)

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