A white Christmas appears to be in store for Kern County foothill and mountain communities above 2,500 feet, though the same storm bringing picturesque views to the areas of Frazier Park, Lake Isabella and Tehachapi also threatens to shut down traffic over local mountain passes.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday and lasting until 4 p.m. Thursday.
The agency's Hanford office predicts 6 to 12 inches of snow above 5,500 feet during that time, with 4 to 8 inches expected on mountain passes, along with wind gusts of up to 45 mph.
With so many people planning to travel during the holiday, and some likely driving to higher elevations for fun in the snow, CalTrans urged drivers to be prepared and stay informed about changing weather conditions.
"We're going to have a white Christmas and we know that people want to go up there and see the snow," Caltrans spokesman Eric Menjivar said Tuesday. "Just plan ahead, expect some delays and look out for the workers who are looking out for you."
His top advice was for drivers to monitor the department's website, quickmap.dot.ca.gov, or download Caltrans' free smartphone app, Quickmap, for monitoring highway conditions.
In Bakersfield, two waves of precipitation are expected to bring two-tenths of an inch of rain to city residents.
NWS meteorologist Modesto Vasquez said light precipitation is headed for Bakersfield Wednesday afternoon, with a second, heavier wave arriving late Wednesday night and continuing through early Thursday.
He added that snow is expected to accumulate Wednesday night and Thursday morning in the Mojave Desert area.
Caltrans and the National Weather Service offered the following tips for anyone planning to cross the Grapevine or Tehachapi Pass through Thursday afternoon:
Stay informed: Be on the lookout for changing weather and driving conditions at Caltrans' website: quickmap.dot.ca.gov. Similar information is available on the department's free smartphone app, Quickmap.
Be prepared: Because a mountain pass can close without notice, be sure to keep a phone charger in your vehicle. Also, bring along blankets, water and snacks in case you get stuck.
Bring snow chains: Drivers without chains won't be allowed in areas where they're required. Be prepared with chains that fit your tires and plan to install them in designated turnouts. Vehicles abandoned in a roadway may be towed at substantial expense to their owner.
Slow down but keep pace: Roads can remain slippery well after snow has stopped falling. Keep a slow but steady pace and look out for snow plows and road workers.