Snow divine for Tahoe skiers; not so for others |

Snow divine for Tahoe skiers; not so for others

Jonah Kessel/Sun News ServicePrecipitation and thick fog accumulates over U.S. Highway 50 near Carson City, Nev., Thursday, Jan. 22. A low pressure system moving in from the Pacific Ocean will bring much need snow and precipitation to the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe. As of Tuesday, snowpack in the Lake Tahoe basin was 64 percent of average for the date.
Jonah M. Kessel | Tahoe Daily Tribune

RENO, Nev.” Divine. Miserable. Puny.

Depending on your point of view, that sums up sentiments about a week of storms that left up to 10 feet of snow at the higher elevations in the Sierra. Skiers, motorists and water watchers all had a different take.

For Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts, the storms were sheer bliss leading to a busy three-day holiday, especially after a month of spring-like temperatures that seemed more fitting for golf than winter sports.

“Deep, light, billowy powder,” said Rachael Woods, spokeswoman for Alpine Meadows Ski Resort.

“It’s incredible. It’s unreal,” she said. “It’s what I wait for when it comes to ski conditions.”

For travelers, snowfall meant continuing headaches Tuesday, as chains or snow tires were required over all mountain passes, including Interstate 80 over Donner Summit and U.S. 50 over Echo Summit.

But for water watchers, well, melt those feet of snow, and you’ve got enough maybe to wet your whistle.

“It’s better than nothing,” Gary Barbato, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Reno, said. “But we need a huge dump.”

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared all of Nevada a disaster area because of ongoing drought, making farmers and ranchers eligible to apply for emergency loans and assistance.

After back-to-back dry years and the likelihood of a third in the making, it’ll take a lot more snow to make up the water deficit, Barbato said.

“March is our last hope, really,” he said. “It can happen in April, but it’s rare.”

As of early Tuesday, the snowpack in the Truckee River Basin was 66 percent of normal. The Carson River Basin was 75 percent. Both are improved from Feb. 11 when they totaled 58 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

“So it’s come up a bit,” he said.

Water content is another story.

Tahoe City, Calif., has 40 inches of snow, but only 2.67 inches of water content, Barbato said. Normal water content for February is 5.71 inches.

“So they’re at 47 percent of average,” Barbato said. Even if the amount doubles by the end of the month, it would still end up below average, he said.

At Boca Reservoir west of Reno, water content is 1.16 inches ” about a third of average for this time of year.

The weather service said the latest parade of storms would exit the region by Wednesday, making way for sunny skies and higher temperatures by week’s end. Highs in the Reno-area were expected to return to the 50s by the weekend.

More storms were possible next week, but forecasting models aren’t predicting any humdingers.

“They look like wimpy ones,” Barbato said. “We need feet, not inches at this point.

“Keep your fingers crossed for a miracle March.”

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