A winter storm brought heavy snows to Tahoe ski resorts, which was a welcome influx after an especially dry winter.
Forecasters predicted storms would keep hammering the Lake Tahoe area, the northeast part of the California and around Yosemite National Park well into Thursday.
Although sunny skies were forecast for the weekend, the storm was expected to pick up strength overnight before bringing another two feet of snow and the possibility of 100 mph wind gusts to the northern Sierra during the morning commute.
Up to 5 feet of snow was predicted at the highest elevations of the northern Sierra Nevada. A California Highway Patrol dispatcher in Truckee said snow was falling early Thursday morning, but Interstate 80 the main highway between Northern California and Nevada remained open.
"It's a pretty typical storm, it's just not typical this year,'' said Johnnie Powell, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
But the precipitation should be a boon to the 28 million Californians who depend on snowmelt to meet their water needs.
The Northern California storm could ease fears among the 29 agencies that depend on snowmelt delivered through the State Water Project. Some farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley already have been told to expect just half of the water they requested for the spring and summer growing seasons.
The California Department of Transportation required chains for 4-wheel drive vehicles without snow tires, imposed lower speed limits and closed isolated stretches of several mountain passes due to heavy snow.
The National Weather Service said the snow level dropped to 3,000 feet in the northern Sierra Nevada Wednesday, with an inch of snow falling each hour.
"Skiers can go have all of the fun they want on the weekend. It worked out perfectly,'' said weather forecaster Powell. ``It should be plowed out and there should be plenty of fresh powder.''
Strong winds and heavy rain made for difficult driving conditions on San Francisco Bay area roads.
The National Weather Service also issued a high surf advisory for the San Francisco and Monterey bay areas, warning that the turbulent weather could produce waves up to 15-feet high and strong rip currents.