Wild, wacky weather flips out North Tahoe | SierraSun.com
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Wild, wacky weather flips out North Tahoe

Shannon Darling, Sun News Service

A rather destructive wind wreaked havoc on the West Shore early Tuesday morning, leaving baffled residents believing they were victims of a weather phenomenon.

“All I remember is my sliding glass doors blew open,” said Maria Baruh, a resident of Tahoe Pines.

Baruh woke up at 2:58 a.m. Tuesday to a loud wind that blew her doors open and her screen windows off.

“I’ve lived here for 31 years and I’ve never heard wind like this,” said Baruh.

When Baruh woke up Tuesday, she found her patio umbrella up on her roof and damaged beyond repair. Her neighbor was missing a patio table.

Gene Pleau, a second homeowner from Sacramento, received a phone call early Tuesday morning and learned from a neighbor that a tree had fallen into his garage at his house located near Tahoe Swiss Village on the West Shore. He rushed up to Tahoe to find his garage completely destroyed.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Pleau, who has been coming to Tahoe for 70 years. Pleau thinks it must have been a small tornado or a waterspout.

Early that morning at 2:30, Doug Peterson, a resident near Granlibakken, heard wind and rain. Peterson got up to cover his boat from the rain.

“I looked around and there wasn’t a cloud in sight,” said Peterson. “Why would it be raining at 2:30 in the morning?”

According to the National Weather Service and the U.S. Coast Guard Station, there was no rain reported on the West Shore.

This makes some residents believe the destructive wind was a waterspout. But because it was so early in the morning, no one knows exactly what this strange wind was.

“The waterspout was so loud, I watched the tree fall down but I couldn’t hear it hit,” said Bob Bell on West Lake

Boulevard. A large cedar tree fell into Bell’s yard.

According to Sierra Pacific Power Company, close to 100 residents were without power until later Tuesday morning because the trees were blown into power lines. Tops of trees were even blown off.

“The path was so destructive if you follow this thing,” said a representative for Sierra Pacific Power.

Currently the only explanation authorities will give for the wind is a thunderstorm.

“There are always strong winds associated with thunderstorms,” said meteorologist Mike Pechner of Goldenwest Meteorology.

The thunderstorm was caused by a surge of tropical moisture. Pechner explained that the destruction may have been caused by what he said are straight-line winds which are “not that unusual.”

“I thought I heard the clap of thunder but it was not that – it was an enormous tree falling down,” said Gloria Bourke, who heard her neighbor’s crash.

Dave Bayless, also on the West Shore, woke up to the sound of winds.

“It sounded like machinery. It got louder, louder and louder,” said Bayless.

The West Shore Cafe was also hit hard by the strange winds. A tent used for weddings and outside receptions was wrapped around a tree close to the restaurant. The tent had been anchored down with 3-foot stakes.

But the wind didn’t just confine itself to the West Shore. Alice Calhoun, a resident in the Highlands woke up to the sound of wind.

She saw her 3-foot-long blinds hit the ceiling when the wind came through.

She said the wind lasted for three to five seconds and there was a slight mist accompanying it.

“It scared the living daylights out of me,” she said.

Two years ago a waterspout was spotted on the East Shore of Tahoe. Waterspouts occur when a warm and cold front collide over water, said Bob Richards of the Tahoe Research Group.

“If it were a waterspout it may have possibly spun out onto shore,” said Richards.

thunderstorms to end

Thunderstorm activity should end today, according to Mike Pechner of Goldenwest Meteorology. Weather will be dry and cool with daytime and nighttime temperatures dropping 10 to 15 degrees this weekend and into early next week. In fact, temperatures will be slightly below seasonal norms. Pechner reported also that he sees no major changes in the six- to 10-day forecast.

Fire Danger High

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District is currently on a dry lightning look out. The hot and dry weather is keeping firefighters in the area.

“We sent an engine to the Arrow Creek area last night,” said Capt. Scott Lynn about the Reno fire Tuesday.

But currently the fire district is trying to keep all its resources available because of the dry weather.

“It’s even warmer now than it was yesterday. That means more severe potential for dry lightning,” Lynn said.


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