A storm system from the Gulf of Alaska that brought rain to the coastal Del Norte County on Wednesday will send a cold front through the area this evening that will bring showers and push the snow level down from 4,000 feet to about 1,500 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Showers will gradually change to snow in the mountains today through Saturday, said meteorologist Ryan Aylward. Areas above 1,500 feet could see between 12 to 24 inches of snow while Del Norte County’s higher mountains may have up to 80 inches of snow, he said.

“It’s just a lot of snow,” he said. “Which is great when it comes to the water supply and the Smith River. It’s going to sit up there and slowly melt as we go through the spring. We always need that snowpack.”

The storm system is expected to bring around 3 inches of rain to the Crescent City area, Aylward said. But Thursday through Saturday colder temperatures and showery conditions means small hail could accumulate on local highways, creating treacherous conditions for motorists.

Aylward said conditions could for motorists could go from dry to pouring rain and hail instantly and encouraged them to slow down and take their time.

“A really dark cloud (ahead) might be a sign that there might be hail,” he said. “You should start slowing down before you get to that.”

Motorists traveling U.S. 199 through the Collier Tunnel and even on U.S. 101 near Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park may see snow, Aylward said. As with hail, he advised drivers to take their time and carry chains.

Beachgoers should also be cautious. Aylward said this weather system could bring breakers of 17 to 20 feet in Crescent City on Thursday night into Friday.

“It’s a pretty big system. There’s a lot to watch out for,” he said.

Aylward noted that weather conditions the end of February on the North Coast are significantly different than they were earlier in the month. For the past two weeks temperatures in Crescent City have ranged from normal up to 7 degrees below normal, he said. There was one day at the beginning of the month where Crescent City saw temperatures 16 degrees above normal, Aylward said.

“On the coast here we don’t get huge swings like that very often,” he said. “The pattern definitely changed from completely dry at the beginning of the month to now we’re in a wet pattern and the Climate Prediction Center is saying Northern California could stay in a wet pattern for the next month.”

The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above normal rainfall for the North Coast, Aylward said. This is good because at 26.5 inches of precipitation since the water year began, Crescent City is about 17 inches below normal, he said. Normal in Crescent City at this point would be 44 inches of precipitation, Aylward said.

“I don’t know if we’re going to get caught up; that’s a lot of rain it would probably result in flooding,” he said. “But if we could get a little above normal for March into April we’ll be in pretty good shape. We won’t be as far behind as we could have been.”

A wet pattern over the next few months that’s cool would be a also good thing for the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas, which is running at about 15-25 percent of normal currently, Aylward said.

For more information about the weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eka/.