Weather Woes: Truckee slammed by mother nature
December 20, 2002
Like a story by Czech-writer Franz Kafka, this week’s storm seemed to be an unending maze of headaches and semi-disasters for Truckee residents and public service workers.
One of the biggest problem caused by the storm – which started Saturday, reached its peak Monday, and will continue through the week – was the power outages throughout the town caused by high winds.
“They would fix something and another tree would fall,” said Town Manager Steve Wright. “They would take two steps forward and two steps back.”
Power lines were still down Wednesday as the Truckee Donner Public Utility District and Sierra Pacific Power Company scrambled to get power back to Truckee residences.
“Other than the sun being out, it doesn’t look too good,” Scott Terrell, planning director at the PUD said Wednesday.
Terrell said that the break in the weather allowed crews to catch up a bit, but he was worried about another storm that could start knocking down trees and power lines again.
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“The place is a mess,” he said. “There are trees and lines down all over the place.”
The PUD serves most of Truckee, and the main problem areas were at Donner Lake and Glenshire. Sierra Pacific serves about 760 customers in Glenshire. As of Tuesday, 3,300 Sierra Pacific customers in the North Lake Tahoe area were without power.
Crews from Roseville Electric made the trip over Interstate 80 Wednesday to help with down power lines.
“We’ll make some progress through town, but probably quite a bit of Truckee is going to be out of power,” Terrell said.
“Power, for the most part, has been on in Tahoe Donner and downtown,” Wright said Tuesday. “Donner Lake and Glenshire and still the most problematic and I would expect them to take the longest to get back.”
Sierra Pacific reported that its customers in Truckee would probably have power today or tomorrow.
“We did get them back in service briefly yesterday, but lost them again,” said Karl Walquist, public information officer for Sierra Pacific.
Walquist said that once the main power line is fixed, most Glenshire and Northstar residents should have power.
Sierra Pacific hopes to have power to all of its Truckee customers in the next couple of days.
Although the PUD, Sierra Pacific and town agencies are making headway while the weather is tame, they’re all expecting the worst of an incoming storm.
Life comes to a screeching halt
By Wednesday all Truckee schools had been closed for three days, and there was no word as to whether they would open or not.
Early Monday, after Town Hall was without power like much of Truckee, town staff, along with the fire district, the police department and other area agencies, set up an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Martis Valley Fire Station.
The EOC closed Tuesday morning, but many residents remained without power, some without heat.
Some businesses closed Monday and some ran off generators.
Standing in line at Long’s Drugs – waiting while employees used one battery-powered register to check out items – Truckee residents compared notes about power outages in their homes and around town.
Meanwhile, the store went without power and employees escorted customers down dark aisles with flashlights.
By mid-afternoon Monday Highway 89 South from Truckee to Tahoe City was closed due to avalanche warnings. The highway was also closed from Emerald Bay to D.L. Bliss State Park.
An avalanche advisory was issued Tuesday by the U.S. Forest Service in Truckee.
High winds and rain, then cooling and abundant snow, caused several layers of snow pack to have varying temperatures and moisture content. These conditions resulted in a “moderately unstable pack,” the advisory said.
“Avalanche danger is high above 6,000 feet,” the advisory said. “Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.”
“We never got to the point where we declared it an emergency,” Wright said.
An emergency shelter was set up at the community center, but only one woman and a family from out of town showed up, prompting officials to close the shelter and house those few people in a local hotel.
“We did set the wheels in motion to shelter people if they needed it,” Wright said. “We had an elderly lady that was getting clod in her house and we put her in a hotel too.”
Other than a couple of minor traffic collisions and cars reported stuck in snow banks, Truckee had few casualties – other than fallen trees.
One man was transported to Washoe Medical Center Tuesday after a tree hit him.
“He was attempting to cut a tree that had fallen against a power line,” said Gene Welch, spokesman for the Truckee Fire District.
The California Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol only reported a couple of accidents – two of which closed Interstate 80 for approximately 20 minutes each.
Approximately 200 Caltrans workers cleared roads from Auburn to the Nevada state line.
“We have over 85 pieces of equipment that run on the Donner Pass route,” said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger.
Although Interstate 80 was closed a couple of times throughout the week, it was never for very long.
“They would close it periodically and clean out the spinouts and open again,” said Kirk Bromell, CHP spokesman.
Truckee Tahoe Airport employees spent much of their time plowing 69 acres of pavement.
“We have had – since Saturday – only one plane land,” said Mike Scott of the airport.
“We had over 750 calls for service,” Commander Scott Berry of the Truckee Police Department said Tuesday. “Plus 108 9-1-1 calls from Saturday to this morning.”
One officer was out with a chainsaw cutting down tree limbs along with the public works department and the fire district.
The next storm
Weather forecaster John Corey with the National Weather Service in Reno said a storm should hit late today and last through Friday with another foot of accumulated snow.
“It’s not in the same league as the one we had Saturday or Monday,” Corey said. There will be wind, he said, but nothing like the wind earlier this week that cause all the chaos.
“It’s not going to knock down trees,” he said. “It’s there but it’s not as bad as the last ones.”
The weather service reported that 32 inches of snow fell from Sunday morning to Monday morning in Truckee.
Although the sun was shining on Wednesday, town officials and the power companies are still wary of the good weather.