Thawing out | SierraSun.com
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Thawing out

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunUnion Pacific maintenance worker Mike Belanger ignites diesel-soaked rope along the railroad tracks that cross Bridge Street in downtown Truckee Saturday morning. Ice from Friday's rain and sleet storm had iced the panels covering the tracks, making the crossing unsafe. The thick ice had to be melted in order to reseat the panels.
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Billed as a brutal blast of winter weather, an Alaskan storm brought heavy rain and snow to Truckee-Tahoe area from Friday through Sunday, but few of the feared electricity outages or emergency conditions.

On Sunday, local residents and businesses dug out from snow depths that registered 68 inches at Soda Springs, 28 inches in Truckee and 72 inches at Mount Rose by Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.

But more snow is on the way, according to Weather Service meteorologists.



Snow showers should taper off Monday, before another storm moves into the area on Tuesday afternoon and evening. The storm should bring up to a foot of snow at lake level, said Alex Hoon, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

“It’s definitely not going to be something like we’ve been seeing,” said Hoon. “This is going to be more of a regular winter storm.”



After a final, weak system moves through the area Thursday, the area should dry out.

“After that I think we’re heading into a quiet period,” said Hoon. “It looks like some good sunny days.”

The thick blanket of new snow was welcome news for ski resorts, but made for some dicey conditions in the backcountry and even at one ski resort.

Two skiers were injured after being caught in a snow slide on Squaw Valley USA’s KT-22 Saturday morning.

The men, who suffered leg injuries, were caught in what Savannah Cowley, Squaw spokeswoman, called a “post-control release,” not an avalanche, at about 11 a.m. Cowley said that prior to the slide that hit the two men, ski patrollers used dynamite to knock loose the potential avalanche site in the area of the Olympic Lady ski lift where the slide later occurred.

Cowley said before the slide, about 20 to 30 people had skied or snowboarded through the area.

“The Patrol Route leader assessed the area and deployed several sticks of dynamite in the area and followed up with ski cutting,” a Squaw Valley USA release said.

Ski cutting is used as an additional measure to assess the stability of the snow. After ski cutting was completed, patrol cleared the area.

The two injured skiers were caught below the release point and swept into the area of trees directly below. Both skiers sustained legs injuries. Ski patrol was on scene in less than one minute, according to resort officials.

Both skiers were assessed and transported to the clinic at the base of the mountain.

Avalanche danger in the backcountry rose to a “high” level after the storm, and still registered “considerable” on Sunday, according to the Sierra Avalanche Center.

While Union Pacific Railroad is used to battling fierce snow storms on their rails that cross Donner Pass, the heavy rain and freezing conditions that followed presented challenges for railroad crews.

Union Pacific employees ignited diesel-soaked rope along the crossing at Bridge street running through downtown Truckee to rid the rails of ice.

“We were able to keep the trains operating, although more slowly than normal,” said Union Pacific’s director of media information James Barnes.

The railroad used 55 generators across Northern California to power crossing barriers where electricity was knocked.

“Our people are pretty much working around the clock,” said Barnes of operations in the Sierra that include running snowplows on the tracks and de-icing railway switches.

All trains that travel the Sierra are equipped with “sanders” that drop sand on the rails to give the locomotive traction.


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