Near-record cold chills Truckee area | SierraSun.com

Near-record cold chills Truckee area

Katherine Morris, Sierra Sun
Doug Slater/Sierra SunMichael Sylvestri, 12, takes a spin on his dirt bike in the snow. When asked if he often rides the cycle in the snow, Michael noted, "Well, there's nothing else to ride it on."
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Brrrrrrrrrrr!

That’s what red-nosed Truckee residents have been saying over the past week or so as near-record breaking low temperatures sent an uncomfortable chill through the area.

According to Tom Cylke of the National Weather Service in Reno, Truckee saw three days of near-record breaking lows on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Monday and Tuesday both had lows of 15 below zero, while Wednesday morning had a low of 17 below zero. Temperatures were recorded at the Truckee Tahoe Airport, which does not keep climate records and therefore, record-breaking status could not be verified.

“Truckee is often the coldest place in all of California,” Cylke said. “The town sits in a small valley surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The basin just fills up with cold air.”

Record breaking or not, subzero temperatures have been making life difficult for many area residents, particularly the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District.

On Tuesday morning, a majority of the district’s school buses refused to start, and those that did start up died a few blocks outside of the parking lot, causing major delays and leaving hundreds of students stranded.

“We’ve never had a problem like this before,” said Bob Nehls, director of business services for TTUSD. “It’s just one of those mountain things that no one expected.”

Since TTUSD has no indoor bus garage, the district keeps its buses outside in a lot, hooked up to engine block warmers.

“One concern was that the fuel was gelling up or freezing because it lacked the proper additives, but we weren’t sure,” Nehls said.

TTUSD managed to avoid similar problems on Wednesday after the district brought in a new fuel supply from Reno and scheduled its mechanics to arrive at the bus lot at 4 a.m., an hour earlier than usual.

Aside from cold weather, Truckee also piled on nine new inches of snow between Saturday and Monday.

According to CHP spokesman Kirk Bromell, chains were required on Interstate 80 and other mountain highways most of the weekend, and on Monday, chain checks began as low as Applegate, eight or so miles east of Auburn.

“That was extremely rare,” Bromell said. “We were getting snow on the Sacramento Valley floor.”

Bromell reported 21 accidents, four of them involving injuries, over the weekend.

“We’ve had a little more snow than usual this year, and accidents are proportional to the amount of snow we receive,” he said.

Cylke said the snowpack in the Tahoe Basin is at 130 percent of normal.

The winter snowpack was already at 136 percent of its normal water content for mid-December, even before the official start of winter.

According to Cylke, the good news is that these freezing temperatures aren’t going to hang on for too much longer.

“We’re looking at pretty good weather over the next few days,” Cylke said. “I suggest going up to the mountains because it should be a good 10 degrees warmer up there. Friday should be a great ski day because there will be mild temperatures, and you should still find some powder because it hasn’t been cold enough to melt the snow yet.”

Don’t put away your hats and mittens just yet, though, because Cylke said several more storms are in the forecast.

“There are a couple of weak systems coming through starting Friday afternoon, but that shouldn’t amount to much. Then on Superbowl Sunday, there will be another system that could bring a dusting of snow,” he said.

“We’ll have a break on Monday and then Tuesday, another system will be moving in that should be a little stronger. Each system that moves through should be a little stronger than the one before.”