The Berkeley Hills looked downright alpine Friday.
A cold winter storm that has dusted higher elevations of the Bay Area this week dumped around 3 inches of snow on Grizzly Peak by mid-morning, National Weather Service Meteorologist Sarah McCorkle said.
And snow kept falling through the afternoon, resulting in the biggest snowstorm in the East Bay hills in well over a decade. Photos and videos shared on social media showed the rare sight of snow covering trees and blanketing the ground in Tilden Regional Park and along Grizzly Peak Boulevard.
Local residents took advantage by hiking, dog and cat walking, building snowmen, sledding and forming snowballs to pelt at their friends’ backs.
Jay Sayre, who grew up in Denver and has been skiing since he was 2 years old, saw the weather forecasts Thursday night and headed to Vollmer Peak with a pair of old skies at 9 a.m. The UC Berkeley doctoral candidate chugged a cup of coffee and skied off the back side of the hill, gliding over the thin blanket of snow and occasionally over gravel, dirt, pavement and grass.
For the record, Sayre doesn’t recommend skiing when snow levels are below a foot unless you’re experienced and willing to sacrifice a pair of skis.
“It’s definitely a novelty ski, but I’m sure the number of people who can say that they’ve gone skiing in Berkeley is a pretty small group,” Sayre said. He plans on going to Tahoe for the real deal next week.
At Grizzly Peak, a small crowd of giddy snow-seekers had turned out, some making muddy snow angels. Many were UC Berkeley students seeking a getaway from everyday life; among them was Sophie Seymens, a UC Berkeley junior who grew up in Chicago and had sped through a 9 a.m. math midterm, finishing 20 minutes early, to ensure she wouldn’t miss her chance to see the rare Bay Area snow.
Berkeley residents Matt Schumacher and Emma Lydon guided their 21-month-old daughter, Louisa Schubacher, as she approached her first snow, first with skepticism and later with delight. For Lydon, the snow brought back old childhood memories: In 2002, her mom pulled her out of elementary school for a day and drove her up through the Berkeley Hills to the same place so she could play in the snow.
“This is what we were trying to avoid when you grew up,” Schumacher jokingly told his daughter. Shortly before she was born, the couple had moved from Washington, D.C. to Berkeley, in part to escape the cold.
Intrepid Berkeleyside environment reporter Iris Kwok spent the day ranking the pulchritude of snowmen she spotted:
As of Friday afternoon, a rain gauge at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory lower in the hills recorded 1.17 inches of precipitation over the previous 24 hours, according to the National Weather Service.
The service has issued a frost advisory from midnight to 9 a.m. Saturday.
While the Bay Area is due for more wet weather over the next several days, Berkeley isn’t forecast to see snow beyond Friday. The region will mostly get a break from rain on Saturday, outside of some isolated showers, before another round of storms drop between a tenth and a quarter of an inch on Sunday, and heavier rainfall of up to an inch on Monday. While some of the region’s higher peaks could snow, meteorologists don’t expect it low enough to reach the Berkeley Hills.
A spokesperson for the East Bay Regional Park District said all of its parks in the Berkeley and Oakland hills remained open Friday. Officials from the Berkeley police and fire departments did not respond to inquiries asking about disruptions caused by the snowfall.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. reported a weather-related power outage Friday afternoon that was affecting about 2,700 customers in downtown Berkeley and the Southside neighborhood.
The last time it snowed in the Berkeley Hills was in 2019. The city’s largest snowstorm on record came on Dec. 19, 1922, according to the Berkeley Historical Society. Six inches fell that day in the flats, 8 inches in the North Berkeley hills and 2 feet at Grizzly Peak.
February 24, 2023