WALNUT CREEK -- The much ballyhooed Great Blizzard of '11 bringing fluffy snow to East Bay flatlands turned into a light dusting on select Bay Area peaks overnight Friday, and a sunny and chilly weekend Saturday.
Meteorologists spent the past week warning of various weather conditions conspiring to allow snow to fall near or at sea level this weekend, something that has not happened to the region in decades. Some locations at higher elevations in San Francisco, Los Gatos and Santa Cruz did report a light dusting of early Saturday morning snowflakes, according to the National Weather Service, but nothing stuck.
For the most part it was mostly cold and dry, with record low temperatures.
"The scattered showers didn't make it too far inland before it broke up and dissipated," said Chris Stumpf, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Existing cold temperatures on the ground helped accelerate the slowdown of the storm clouds, Stumpf said. The weather system then broke apart, along with images of ski runs through the Berkeley Hills and Kirker Pass.
The hypothermic hype left many East Bayers disappointed, but most not surprised.
"I was looking forward to it all week," said Cassie Shambaugh, 25, of Newark, who has never seen snowfall in her lifetime living in the Bay Area. "I have a weather app on my phone and I was checking the forecast daily for changes."
She had planned to make the three-hour round-trip hike to Mission
Steven Kessler, of Walnut Creek, took his 4-year-old son Jack to Mount Diablo last week for a summit snowball fight but was turned back by the crowds.
"It would have been cool if it snowed," said Kessler said, who instead played with his son at the nearly deserted Heather Farm Park playground in Walnut Creek. "But I wasn't surprised. How can you trust the weatherman?"
The heated swimming pool at Heather Farm proved a more popular option on a morning when the thermostat registered 46 degrees. Lifeguard Ben Bryggman said the chlorinated water is heated to about 82 degrees.
"Let me put it this way -- it's warmer in there than it is out here," said Bryggman while bundled up and perched atop his lifeguard stand.
Despite the media hype for a possible snow day, Diane Sosnoski, of Berkeley, and originally the Midwest, said she never once questioned her trip to the pool.
"I didn't expect it to snow because it didn't look like snow," she said. "I'm from Chicago. I know what snow looks like."
The frigid overnight temperatures created black ice on Highway 4 near Hercules on Saturday morning. Numerous cars crashed on the ice after a broken storm drain on an overpass leaked water onto the freeway. Westbound lanes were closed for a number of hours, the CHP said.
Forecasts said Saturday the snow window has likely passed. Temperatures are expected to heat up to the mid-50s by Sunday.
That's welcome news to Cynthia Dial, director of Development for Shelter Inc. in Martinez, a private shelter that focuses on finding housing for homeless families. The shelter doubled its maximum occupancy before last week's cold snap. But with recent donations, they hope to provide shelter for three more families by next week.
"It's not ideal for families, but it gets them off the streets," Dial said.
At the Jordan House, an Oakland transitional housing facility open to a dozen men, there were three open beds this weekend, said director Obie Rigmaiden, who made some exceptions because of the bitter cold.
"I've even taken a couple people in for a few days and that's not what we normally do, but far be it from me to turn my back on someone," Rigmaiden said. "I was homeless once."
At the Men's Overnight Shelter on Center Street in Berkeley, case manager Terrance Lee said at least 52 men needed beds Friday night. The shelter only has 40 bunks and ran out of blankets.
"Last night we ran out of blankets to give the guys, usually they get two, but we had to narrow it down and just give them one each," he said. "It's been hectic because of the cold, but we manage."
Staff Writer Kristin Bender contributed to this report.
While no snow, Bay Area overnight temperatures Friday broke and tied numerous records.
Record breaking lows:
Oakland: 34 degrees, previously 38 in 1987
Oakland International Airport: 32 degrees, previously 34 in 1962
SFO: 35 degrees, previously 36 in 1971
Napa: 27 degrees, previously 30 degrees in 1945
San Rafael: 28 degrees, previously 32 in 1996
Record tying lows:
San Francisco: 37 degrees, tied from 1962
Mountain View: 34 degrees, tied from 1962
San Jose: 33 degrees, tied from 1897
-- National Weather Service