History Channel program spotlights Sierra winters | SierraSun.com
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History Channel program spotlights Sierra winters

Sun News Service

Truckee and the Sierra Nevada will be in the spotlight Wed., Aug. 9 when the History Channel premieres “Snowbound: The Curse Of the Sierra” on national cable television.

Unfortunately, local cable networks don’t carry the History Channel on their basic packages, but the special will be seen anywhere that does receive the History Channel, which is now carried in over 65 million homes. “Snowbound” is scheduled to air Aug. 9 at 11 p.m. ET/PT, 10 p.m. CT.

“Snowbound: Curse of the Sierra” explores three stories of catastrophe and heroism in the region over a span of more than 150 years.

Local history experts including weather historian Mark McLaughlin appear in the program, which features three of the area’s best-known winter calamities.

– In the spring of 1846, a group of pioneers known as the Donner Party left the Midwest to settle in California. The Sierra Nevada was the last obstacle in their 2,000 mile journey. An early winter brought brutal storms that made this last obstacle impassable, forcing 81 men, women and children to spend the winter in the mountains, less than 100 miles away from their final destination in Sacramento.

– In January 1952, the luxury passenger train “City of San Francisco” was caught in an avalanche near Donner Pass with over 200 people on board. The train cars lost power, food supplies ran low, and 60 people suffered carbon monoxide poisoning because of malfunctioning space heaters. Blinding snow, winds greater than 80 miles per hour and additional avalanches thwarted all efforts to free the train or even evacuate passengers for days.

– On March 31, 1982, after the largest continuous snowstorm in history, an avalanche thundered down the mountain of Alpine Meadows Ski Area, killing seven people and burying 22-year-old Anna Conrad alive. Trapped in a space five feet long, three feet wide, and two feet wide, there was nothing Anna could do but wait. Despite their unsuccessful attempts, rescue workers had to call off the search for two days because of fears of avalanches. Finally, after five days, rescuers found Anna buried beneath 10 feet of snow and tons of rubble. Incredibly, she was still alive.

Because of frostbite and gangrene, she lost her right leg below the knee and the toes on her left foot. Still, Anna made an otherwise full recovery and was skiing again within a year.


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