Tahoe-Truckee area ready for the storm | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee area ready for the storm

Andrew Cristancho and Julie Brown
Sierra Sun
Julie Brown/Sierra SunOfficials on Wednesday moved an American Red Cross trailer with hundreds of cots and blankets into position at Tahoe Lake Elementary School. If needed, the Tahoe City school and Kings Beach Elementary would serve as emergency shelters for stranded visitors and those experiencing power outages during a strong storm in the forecast.

The prospect of heavy snow on Friday is welcome to winter sports enthusiasts, but predicted strong winds have power companies, county officials and the American Red Cross worried.

If conditions warrant, the Red Cross plans to open public shelters for visitors and travelers caught in the possible blizzard. More likely is the odds of gale-force winds damaging power lines in the region.

“Sierra Pacific will make sure that enough personnel are available to deal with any outages and emergencies that occur,” said Sierra Pacific spokesman Karl Walquist.

Sierra Pacific regularly communicates with the National Weather Service and local emergency management offices, Walquist said, ensuring the power company is prepared for what could be a busy weekend.

“[Sierra Pacific staff] work around the clock when it’s safe for them to work to get everyone back in service,” he said.

Walquist said the company winterized its equipment this fall to prepare for power outages that come with howling blizzards. Sierra Pacific spent $2 million last summer trimming trees around transmission lines in North Tahoe and Donner Summit areas.

Company vehicles are equipped with four-wheel drive and some with studded snow tires. And the snowcats, snowmobiles and snowshoes are ready for use, he said.

“We expect to have storms and heavy winds and everything that comes with it,” Walquist said.

As for staffing, Walquist said the storm’s timing is fortunate because all of the company’s employees have returned from holiday vacations.

But prepping for a major winter storm is nothing out of the ordinary for Sierra Pacific.

“This isn’t the only winter storm we’ve had,” he said.

Over the 2006 New Year, a severe winter storm’s high winds and wet, heavy snow left several thousand homes throughout the Tahoe Basin without electricity, in some areas for several days. Power company employees worked around the clock and crews came in from neighboring areas to assist with the repair, which cost several hundred thousand dollars, Walquist said.

If power goes out this weekend and highways closed by heavy snow and wind, the American Red Cross will be prepared.

Red Cross officials moved trailers with emergency supplies closer to potential public shelters Wednesday morning, said Red Cross spokeswoman Courtney Miller.

If needed, storm shelters would most likely be opened at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District facilities that could include Kings Beach and Tahoe Lake elementary schools in the basin, said Placer County Public Information Officer Anita Yoder.

In February, Truckee’s Sierra Mountain Community Education Center was used as a shelter during a road closure that stranded dozens of motorists, officials said.

“What we have is a contingency plan for opening shelters,” Yoder said. “Based on what we see happening with this storm, we will be opening them. The most likely scenario that would require shelters, would be an extended power outage.”

Schools are typically used as shelter locations, said school district Director of Facilities John Britto in an e-mail interview.

“They have large indoor spaces, food service facilities, restroom and shower facilities and often backup power,” Britto said.

The shelters provide those who need a place to dry out and rest with hundreds of blankets and cots.

Storm information can be found on the county’s Web site.

A phone number on the Office of Emergency Services message system will be updated with information as the need arises, Yoder said.

Road conditions could get dangerous, said CalTrans spokesperson Shelly Chernicki. Although officials could not predict what this weekend’s storm will bring, Chernicki said motorists need to be prepared for blowing snow, trees toppling over, and fallen rocks in the roadway.

“They have to be extra vigilant in these type of conditions,” she said. “If you don’t have to drive, don’t.”

Chernicki said motorists should prepare by filling the gas tank, carrying extra food and water, packing extra clothing and blankets, and making sure their windshield fluid is full, preferably with low-freezing-point fluid. Also, drivers should allow for sufficient stopping distance on icy highways, and follow the appropriate speed for the conditions.

“There will be delays if there is snow ” count on it,” she said.

Including water, food, first aid, battery-powered or hand-cranked radio flashlight, and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat. Copies of important documents (birth certificate, title/deed to home, insurance policies, etc.) in a water-proof container.

(All of the above plus); Blankets or sleeping bags, jumper cables, fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C type), compass and road maps, shovel, tire repair kit and pump, flares, extra clothing to keep dry, sack of sand or cat litter (for tire traction), tow rope.

Have additional food and water stored to last seven to fourteen days, have extra blankets on hand, ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, a hat, and water-resistant boots, assemble a disaster supplies kit for your home and vehicle, have your vehicle winterized before the weather gets severe, decide how you would communicate with your family members should you be separated and unable to travel when a winter storm hits.

Visit Placer and Nevada counties’ Web sites at http://www.placer.ca.gov or http://www.mynevadacounty.com.

Visit the local American Red Cross Web site at http://www.sacsierraredcross.org

Check the local radio stations: KKOH AM 780, KRLT FM 93.9, KOWL AM 1490, KTHO AM 590.

If needed, a message will be posted on the Office of Emergency Services message system at 530-584-1590.

Know the difference between a winter storm watch, a winter storm is possible in your area, and a winter storm warning, a winter storm is headed for your area.

Consider getting first aid and CPR training in case you need to respond in an emergency before professionals arrive on the scene.

Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only, use items in the refrigerator first, then freezer, then non-perishable foods, use generators correctly ” If you have a portable generator and the power goes out, always plan to keep the generator outdoors. Never operate it inside, including the basement, garage, carport or near any open windows. Connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring.

Hazardous Winter Travel: The American Red Cross strongly urges everyone to monitor weather reports and follow the directions of local authorities. If travel is absolutely necessary during potentially dangerous winter weather, inform someone of your travel route, destination and expected arrival time. Store a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle and remember to keep the gas tank near full to avoid ice building up in the gas tank and fuel lines.

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