Winter storms bring multiple feet of snow to Truckee-Tahoe region
Jan. 1: 57 percent of average
Feb. 1: 98 percent of average
Snowfall past 7 days
Boreal: 86 inches
Northstar California: 78 inches
Squaw Valley: 84 inches
Snow is piling up in Tahoe with the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada at 98 percent of average, according to a Department of Water Resources snow survey.
According to an Associated Press report, the department measured the snow at Phillips Station at the end of January at 50 inches with a snow-water equivalent of 18 inches.
At the beginning of the month there were 25.5 inches of snow depth at the site with a snow water equivalent of 9 inches, which is 80 percent of average for that location.
Last weekend’s storm put Truckee under a winter storm warning bringing several feet of snow to Lake Tahoe, with Squaw Valley reporting seven feet at upper mountain and Northstar reporting over six feet on the mountain in the past seven days.
While the storm caused multiple road closures and chain requirements, Truckee Police were able to mitigate the traffic gridlock caused by Interstate 80 closures more effectively than in previous storms.
“Traffic in Truckee this last weekend was much better than on Jan. 6 or MLK weekend,” said Truckee Police Chief Robert Leftwich.
“Although I-80 did close for an extended period, we did not have the visitor traffic trying to exit the region at the same time,” he said, adding the extensive messaging through their department’s social media discouraged visitors from trying to get up to Tahoe. “Messaging on social media is still a critical component of impacting traffic issues,” he said.
After being closed for 24 hours, Interstate 80 was reopened around 10 a.m. on Tuesday with chain control in place and a speed limit of 30 mph. Chain control was also in enforced on Highway 89 between Truckee and Tahoe City and on Highway 267 between Truckee and Kings Beach.
“It seemed like overall when the road closure went into effect there was a better plan of getting people off the freeway and turned around,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Billings.
While he was not around for the previous storm on Jan. 6 he said he “just knew it was bad,” adding that “this past weekend it went a little differently.”
“We got them off the freeway. After that Truckee police was able to get them moving around,” said Billings.
Leftwich said the key to preventing gridlock is to keep motorists from traveling all at once to prevent less accidents.
“Less accidents on I-80 directly translates to less closures and less gridlock in Truckee,” he said. “Once the increased number of vehicles arrive in Truckee and I-80 closes, there are very few, if any, traffic calming techniques that can resolve the issue.”
With icy roads he said accidents were to be expected.
“The accidents we did have were fairly typical in comparison to other snow events. We were fortunate in Truckee that there were no serious injuries or deaths,” he said.
Leftwich said the most important factor to consider while traveling in the snow is driving slower.
MORE ON THE WAY?
According to the national weather service another storm is headed to Lake Tahoe this weekend with a 40 percent chance of snow on Friday, two to four inches expected on Friday night and six to 10 inches over Saturday night. Snow showers are expected through Tuesday with snow likely on Wednesday.
“We’ll have everything ready to go this weekend,” said Billings.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.