Winter. Finally | SierraSun.com

Winter. Finally

David Bunker and wire reports
Sierra Sun

February is bowing out with a windy, snowy and cold finish.

Meteorologist are predicting up to six feet of new snow on the high mountains around the Truckee-Tahoe area by Tuesday evening from winter storms that began on Saturday afternoon.

Between two and three feet is forecast to accumulate at lake level.

“It’s the winter we’ve all been waiting for,” said Gina Beninato, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Reno.

A storm forecast to hit today and bring snow through Tuesday evening will be stronger than Saturday and Sunday’s system, said Beninato.

The systems may drop the most snow the area has seen all winter, she said.

Meanwhile, motorists on Sunday faced at least two more hours of driving time getting over mountain passes because of the storm, said Juanita Holley, spokeswoman for Caltrans at Kingvale, just west of Donner Summit.

As of early Sunday afternoon, the storm had dropped nearly two feet at Kingvale at 6,200 feet elevation since the night before.

Traffic was held for avalanche control on U.S. 50 and to help clear congestion on I-80’s westbound lanes, causing vehicles to back up in Truckee on a busy travel day, said CalTrans spokesman Mark Dinger.

Sgt. Roy Richner of the Truckee Police Department said spinouts were rife around Truckee on Sunday, particularly on Northwoods Boulevard. Officers shut down the steep section of Northwoods for more than an hour at about 10 a.m. due to multiple spinouts, Richner said.

Whiteout conditions and high winds caused the Alpine Meadows ski resort just north of Lake Tahoe to shut down early Sunday afternoon and the Boreal resort atop Donner Summit to postpone skiing Sunday night, spokeswoman Rachael Woods said.

Since Wednesday, a string of storms has dropped 3 1/2 feet at Alpine Meadows’ base lodge and more than 4 1/2 feet of snow at its mid-mountain at 7,000 feet, she said.

“It’s been snowing about an inch an hour since 6 this morning and has not let up,” Woods said Sunday afternoon. “The recent snowfall has allowed all Lake Tahoe ski resorts to fully open, and has given us more snow than resorts in Colorado, Utah and British Columbia.”

The snowfall also has given a much-needed boost to a skimpy Sierra snowpack, which has recently stood at 40 percent to 50 percent of average for the date in the Lake Tahoe area.

A winter storm warning was posted for Monday through Tuesday morning at Lake Tahoe, where more snow was expected.

It also created dangerous avalanche conditions in the Sierra Nevada, and whiteout conditions on roadways.

The Truckee-based Sierra Avalanche Center classified the danger of a snow slide as “high” near or above treeline.

If avalanches do occur, up to four feet of snow may slide, the center’s avalanche warning stated.