New Year’s Day brings chilly blue skies, but more rain is coming soon

The New Year kicked off with crystal clear skies Tuesday, with a cold wind bringing Bay Area views into sharp relief.

But cold and clear will give way to a series of storms expected to hit the region with the first rain late Friday into Saturday.

“We’re getting to an unsettled pattern,” said Suzanne Sims, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “Monday there’s another system, then another Tuesday night, maybe another Wednesday night, into the end of the week.”

The storms will bring rain across the Bay Area and snow in the mountains.

“It would be a good start to the year,” Sims said before repeating what has become California’s rallying cry: “We need the rain.”

In the meantime, a higher pressure ridge is pushing a cold air mass over Northern California, with more freezing temperatures inland.

“It’s wintertime, so this can happen,” Sims said.

But on Tuesday, winter was putting on a sunny, blue-sky show in San Francisco for the several hundred brave souls who welcomed 2019 with a dip in the frigid 50-degree waters off Ocean Beach for the annual New Year’s Day Ocean Plunge.

Across town, New Year’s Day meant the last moments of the holiday season, with deep discounts in stores and a long line of tourists on winter break waiting their turn to ride halfway to the stars on a cable car.

Down at Union Square, the date on the calendar and the chill in the air did not deter bikini-clad revelers from strapping on ice skates for the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Skate on the seasonal rink.

The event models itself after similar skivvy skating activities in Canada, and those annual polar bear plunges in icy waters.

Madeline Lehman, 18, who was wearing a teeny-weeny red-and-white bikini, as well as a knit stocking cap, had traveled to San Francisco from Vacaville with two friends to skate in beach wear. She was among a handful of skaters in bathing suits gliding around the ice.

She and her friends, also in bikinis, thought skating sounded like a fun way to spend New Year’s Day. They spent a good part of the afternoon posing for pictures with a steady stream of tourists who wanted a selfie with three bikini-clad teenagers wearing ice skates.

After smiling for another camera, Lehman acknowledged it was a little chilly to be in a two-piece, but not too bad.

“I think,” she said, slathering her legs with glitter, “we’re going to warm up once we’re on the ice.”

Jill Tucker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jtucker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jilltucker

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/New-Year-s-Day-brings-chilly-blue-skies-but-13502092.php.

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