Winds batter Tahoe |

Winds batter Tahoe

David Bunker and Patrick McCartney
Sierra Sun
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunAs the storm rolled in Thursday afternoon both visitors and locals alike swarmed Savemart grocery store to stock up on supplies. With the winter weather only expected to worsen as the weekend begins, no one wanted to be caught ill-prepared.

An estimated 750 homes on the West Shore of Tahoe were left without power Thursday afternoon, as the first wave of wind and snow hit the Tahoe-Truckee area.

“It’s assumed to be wind-related,” said Karl Walquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Power company, which services much of Tahoe and Truckee.

The power company had no estimate for restoration of electricity to the homes.

“They’re patrolling the lines right now,” said Walquist.

The intense storm expected to arrive by noon today prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for the Sierra Nevada.

“It’s pretty unusual for us to issue a blizzard warning,” said Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno. “It’s the biggest winter storm we’ve seen coming in three or four years.”

The forecast was enough for the Town of Truckee to announce that the American Red Cross would establish a shelter today at Sierra Mountain Middle School at 11603 Donner Pass Road. The shelter will open at 8 this morning, and stay open for stranded motorists and others as conditions warrant.

The town also announced that Greyhound and Amtrak services have been canceled for today and Saturday.

As the front edge of the first storm in the series hit the Tahoe Basin, power went out at 2:45 p.m. from south of the Timberland subdivision to north of Tahoma on the West Shore. The outage included the neighborhoods of Skyland, Tahoe Pines, Tahoe Swiss Village, Homewood and Chamber’s Landing, Walquist said.

The loss of electricity comes before the fiercest winds and snow have reached the area. On Friday and Saturday, the National Weather Service predicts winds reaching 145 mph over Sierra ridges and heavy snow, causing blizzard conditions that will make driving extremely treacherous.

Snow is expected to fall at a maximum rate of 6-8 inches an hour overnight Friday. Most highways will close for a time since the rate of snowfall should overwhelm snow-removal equipment to keep roadways clear, according to the National Weather Service.

“Do not attempt to travel across the Sierra passes,” the Weather Service stated in its blizzard warning. “Attempting to travel in the Sierra will put your life at risk!”

Walquist said Sierra Pacific is prepping for the weather, but is not stationing more crews in Tahoe, since that would leave other areas defenseless. The company will call up contract crews to help if necessary, he said.

But Walquist said the power company was not nervous about the projected winds.

“We have winter storms. Wehave big ones and we’ve had big ones in the past,” he said.

The Truckee Donner Public Utility District was also preparing Thursday for wind- and snow-related problems.

“We’ve been pre-planning with crews on responses and response times,” said Steve Tervino, the utility’s electricity superintendent. “We’ve even made reservations for line personnel who live out of the area that may be spending extended periods of time working through the storm. I think we are as prepared as we can be.”

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