Lake Tahoe weather: Officials warn – ‘this storm is serious business’
TRUCKEE, Calif. — While Tahoe-area ski resorts are heralding this week’s massive snowfall totals, area officials are on high alert as the next storm series is expected to bring several inches of rain to the region.
A flood watch will be in effect Saturday night through Monday morning for the greater Tahoe-Truckee region, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.
“An atmospheric river will produce a period of intense rainfall, with snow levels as high as 9,000 feet early Sunday morning to Monday morning,” according to NWS. “Rainfall totals of 6 to 12 inches are possible around the Tahoe Basin and in the Carson Range, with 2 to 4 inches in the lower elevations around Reno-Sparks, Carson City and Douglas County.”
Per NWS, an “atmospheric river” can be defined as a conveyor belt of vapor that extends thousands of miles from out at sea, carrying as much water as what could fill 15 Mississippi rivers.
“This storm is serious business,” John McEldowney, Placer County emergency services manager, said in a statement Thursday. “Even if you’re not in an area prone to flooding, you should be prepared for service disruptions and road closures, and stay tuned to local news and emergency services alerts for any changes in conditions that could affect you.”
According to a statement Thursday from the Truckee Police Department, flooding of the Truckee River in town could approach levels last seen on Dec. 31, 2005. Whether or not it approaches levels of the historic floods in the region in 1997 remains to be seen.
According to previous reports, flows on the river on Dec. 31, 2005, through Truckee were 6,030 cubic feet per second, compared to high flows of 11,900 cfs in 1997.
The river height gauge reached nearly 10 feet in 1997, while it hit nearly 7 feet in 2005.
Areas of Truckee did flood in 2005, particularly those near Trout Creek downtown and Donner Creek near Deerfield Drive and Highway 89.
“While those levels were extremely high, they did not result in damage to homes or roadways within the Town of Truckee,” according to Thursday’s TPD statement. “Similar to 2005, it is expected that some small streams and drainages in Town will overtop their banks, and that roadways will have significant standing or running water on their surfaces…”
Meanwhile, according to a statement Thursday from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, NWS is also forecasting another atmospheric river arriving in the region on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 10-11, which “could be similar or greater than the floods of 1997 and 2005…”
According to NWS, an additional 1 to 2 feet of snow could fall as well during the storm this weekend; however, while snow levels could begin Saturday afternoon as low as lake level, they are expected to rise above 7,000 fairly quickly, and above 8,000 and 8,500 feet by Sunday as temperatures at lower elevations warm.
Considering the flooding potential, starting Friday, Jan. 6, free sand bags will be available at the following locations:
Truckee: Truckee Fire Station 92, 11473 Donner Pass Road; and Town of Truckee Department of Public Works, 10969 Stevens Lane
Kings Beach: North Tahoe Fire Station 52, 288 North Shore Blvd. (near the Highway 28/267 intersection)
Northstar: Northstar Community Services District Corp Yard, 50 Trimont Lane (off Northstar Blvd.)
Olympic Valley: Old Squaw Valley Fire Station, 1810 Squaw Valley Road (west end of valley, near lifts)
Tahoe City: Department of Public Works Corp Yard, 2501 North Lake Blvd. (Burton Creek)