Forecasters: White Christmas ahead | SierraSun.com

Forecasters: White Christmas ahead

Patrick McCartney
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunA truck driver puts on chains on Interstate 80 Tuesday afternoon during a snowstorm.
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Motorists grumbled while ski resorts exulted Tuesday as the second in a series of winter-like storms swept through the Tahoe-Truckee region.

A colder, wetter storm is predicted to hit the Sierra Nevada by this evening, and forecasters say the area may be hit by a snowstorm on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

“We just may have a white Christmas,” said Kyle Mozley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Reno.

Chain controls were in effect on Interstate 80 for much of Tuesday, as well as Highways 89, 28 and 267 during the afternoon. The California Highway Patrol closed eastbound Interstate 80 for a time because of the sloppy conditions and numerous spinouts.

“We’ve been having our share of spinouts,” said CHP Officer Steve Skeen from the CHP office in Truckee. “As long as it is snowing we stay pretty busy.”

For the second straight week, Tahoe-area ski resorts received a fresh blanket of snow in time to prepare the slopes for weekend skiers.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” said spokeswoman Rachael Woods of Alpine Meadows. “This is a great storm in terms of opening trails that don’t have snowmaking on them.”

Tuesday’s storm will allow Alpine Meadows to give seasonal employees more work, Woods said.

While few area ski resorts were able to open by Thanksgiving this year, December’s storms should give the Sierra’s winter sports industry a shot in the arm as the holiday season arrives.

Squaw Valley spokeswoman Savannah Cowley delighted in the midweek storm’s “unbelievable timing” after a slow start to the ski season. The fresh supply of snow puts Squaw Valley in better shape than last season, she said.

“Right now we are just working one by one to get the lifts open,” Cowley said. “It’s doing wonders.”

Tuesday’s storm was something of an under-achiever, according to National Weather Service forecasters. The low-pressure front split as it crossed the California coastline, with the brunt of the storm’s force battering the Southern Sierra.

Tonight’s weather system has stronger dynamics and promises to hold together better, even with some splitting, ushering in colder air that will drop the snow level.

“It brings another round of heavy snowfall in the Sierra,” said meteorologist Mozley.