Snowstorm slams into Tahoe-Truckee area | SierraSun.com

Snowstorm slams into Tahoe-Truckee area

Patrick McCartney and David Bunker
Sierra Sun
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunTruckee High School senior Nick Tennant took advantage of the snow day Thursday to rip some fresh laps on the Mt. Lincoln chair at Sugar Bowl ski resort.
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The snowstorm that plowed through the Sierra Nevada overnight Wednesday packed the wallop missing from the storm the previous day, bringing thick snow and strong winds to Truckee and Tahoe.

And with winter making an official entrance at a little after 10 tonight, forecasters expect more storms to affect the area every few days through Christmas.

“The general pattern we’re in has weather systems coming through every two or three days,” said meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf with the National Weather Service in Reno.

Snowfall totals approached a foot or more in the Tahoe area. Mt. Rose ski area reported 15 inches of new snow, with an even foot measured at Tahoe City, Prosser Creek and the 8,600-foot level at Northstar.

The heavy overnight snow prompted the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to declare a snow day Thursday, closing all 11 district schools in Truckee and the Tahoe Basin. The district office remained open.

The closure didn’t bother students, who leapt at the chance to enjoy winter sports. Standing in a ski lift line at Sugar Bowl ski resort Thursday, Truckee senior Nick Tennant said he looks forward to school snow days.

“I wake up earlier on snow days than I do for school,” Tennant said. “I shovel a little bit, and then get up to the mountain as quick as possible.”

Caltrans spokeswoman Shelly Chernicki said the state agency deployed 350 employees at the height of the storm to keep Interstate 80 open. Since Dec. 16, Caltrans has recorded 43 inches of snow at its Kingvale station, where a sign declares the maintenance crews, “Sierra Snowfighters.”

During the heavy snowfall, Chernicki reported that traffic moved pretty well despite the usual number of spinouts on the treacherous road surface.

“There were some times when we had to hold traffic for spinouts,” Chernicki said.

Caltrans held traffic on I-80 for an hour early Thursday because of spinouts, and briefly on Highway 267 because of an accident, she said.

“We’ve been dodging the bullet as far as any major accidents.”

A car struck a power line in Agate Bay, but Karl Walquist of Sierra Pacific Power said the company was able to repair the line without a service interruption.

However, the power line from Loyalton to Portola went out during the storm, leaving 1,782 customers in Portola without power.

With wintry weather finally making an appearance, a climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno said it was too soon to be complacent about the current La Nina condition.

“The Sierra needs 20 to 25 storms of this type in a typical year to provide a normal amount of water,” said Kelly Redmond in a phone interview Wednesday. “Until today, we’d had just one decent storm.”

Most of the frontal systems predicted to affect the area through Christmas will just brush the Sierra Nevada, said meteorologist Deeutschendorf. The storm forecast for Christmas Eve is now expected to be a daytime event Monday, he said.