Kevin MacMillan: Does Mother Nature hate Tahoe-Truckee?
They say bad things come in threes, right? If you look at that in terms of adverse weather, No. 1 was the snow-aided cancellation of the first two legs of the Amgen Tour of California at Lake Tahoe and Truckee during the spring of 2011.
No. 2 was (keyword “was,” because I’m being optimistic here) the last three paltry winters, nearly void of snow and full of early closures and bad vibes at our ski resorts.
No. 3 was Sunday’s smoke-inspired quashing of the second annual Ironman Lake Tahoe race, a decision made minutes before swimmers hit the waters in Kings Beach — a decision lamented by many, but also understood by others as the unfortunate right call.
Sunday’s news was a bummer, no doubt. Thousands of athletes had trained for months to conquer personal bests and beat various odds to compete in what many called one of the more challenging Ironman courses ever due to our elevation gains.
Meanwhile, for us locally, the potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars — perhaps millions? — in lost revenue from hungry competitors and their friends and families not eating at local restaurants after the race is real.
Just one example — a friend of mine who manages a local restaurant that prospers during big holiday and event weeks texted me and said he was in line for a $10,000 loss Sunday (a conservative guess) unless he could somehow unload all the extra food ordered to sister businesses.
Of course, the silver lining from an economic standpoint that didn’t exist with Amgen is the fact we have a contract signed with Ironman that goes for another three years.
Still, though, considering how gnarly wildfire season has been to us recently, it does make you wonder, “what if?”
There’s no doubt athletes here locally and across the world, as well as regional tourism and business officials, definitely had a severe case of the Mondays this week. A lot of hard prep work went for naught. And for many, that notion really stings.
But, as we continue to report on the King Fire’s growth to almost 100,000 acres, and nervously watch maps that show it inching closer to the foothills that approach Lake Tahoe’s West Shore, I think it’s important for us to use our emotions to recognize the hard work that’s happened around the clock to contain this blaze.
Nearly 7,500 people, including several from Tahoe-Truckee, are on the ground working to stop this fire. Government officials, air pollution experts and meteorologists are working overtime to inform us of wind patterns.
And then there are our school officials. On Tuesday, I met at Coffeebar in Truckee with Kelli Twomey of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. Among other things, we chatted about the fire and smoke impacts.
She informed me that she, TTUSD Superintendent Rob Leri and a handful of other administrators have been up by 2:30 a.m. every day since last week, traveling to school sites to monitor smoke levels, all in an effort to make the right decision to inform parents by 6 a.m. if school is or is not in session, or whether kids can play outside.
It’s true: From a recreation and economic standpoint, Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to us recently.
But let’s not forget some of the lesser-known, behind-the-scenes dedication that goes into making sure we are still looked at an ideal destination in the first place.
— Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Reach him for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.