Fall storm dusts the high country
A fast-moving weather system dropped a few inches of wet snow in the Tahoe-Truckee area Wednesday morning, causing traffic spinouts that briefly closed Interstate 80 in Truckee.
The early morning storm was the third time snow has fallen in the high country this fall, with more storms poised to sweep through the Sierra. Rain and snow is forecast to return this evening or early Friday.
Rain drenched the west slope of the Sierra late Tuesday, but the low-pressure front weakened as it pushed east. A half-foot or more of snow fell over Donner Summit, but snowfall in the Tahoe Basin and Truckee area was limited to an inch or two.
That was enough to cause three spinouts on Interstate 80 in central Truckee Wednesday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol. The CHP held traffic on I-80’s westbound lanes in central Truckee for about a half-hour until conditions improved.
When CHP Officer Dan Hardy responded to the scene in his cruiser, a fourth motorist spun out and the vehicle struck Hardy’s patrol car. Damage was minimal and Hardy was uninjured, said CHP Officer Steve Skeen.
“We had wetter snow build up on the roadway,” Skeen said. “People have to reduce speeds in this kind of weather.”
Chain controls were imposed on I-80 beginning at Nyack when the storm arrived. Chains were required for about three hours between Kingvale and Truckee, Skeen said.
The weather was responsible for numerous spinouts and jack-knifed trucks on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore and on I-80 over the summit.
“Nobody was running into each other,” Skeen said. “They were all solo spinouts.”
Another fall storm is expected to arrive as early as this evening, according to meteorologist Gina Beninato of the National Weather Service office in Reno.
“Fall is an interesting time of year, with extremely variable weather,” Beninato said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Last year we were warm until the end of October. This year, the jet stream has dropped a little farther south, and will continue for at least another week.”
A high-pressure ridge over the weekend will allow temperatures to warm, before two more low-pressure systems sweep through Northern California early next week.
“Right now, the first doesn’t look as impressive as it did,” Beninato said. “But another storm Tuesday into Wednesday has the potential to be larger.”
Researchers at the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno say that moderate La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean this year could result in a wet winter in the northwest, and drier conditions in the southwest.
With Lake Tahoe located between the two regions, the region’s winter weather could go in either direction, said climatologist Kelly Redmond.
“We’re in the nether region, an in-between land,” Redmond said. “It’s the central part of the teeter totter.”
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