SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - It's still dry in Lake Tahoe. How dry, you ask? Dry enough that the whole place could burst into flames at any moment.
The National Weather Service issued a fire weather warning for the greater Lake Tahoe area Friday. The warning is in effect Sunday afternoon and evening.
"The combination of dry air and gusty winds would produce critical fire weather conditions," according to the warning.
The U.S. Forest Service is also putting fire personnel on alert Sunday due to the possibility of strong winds that could cause a wildland fire to become more intense and spread rapidly. Lack of rain or snow has already pushed the fire danger level back to high, and the Forest Service is urging the public to use caution with activities that could start a fire.
"We are essentially back in fire season," said Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Fire Chief Kit Bailey in a statement. "We're asking the community to stay alert and keep wildfire prevention in mind as these strong winds approach, along with some of our driest weather on record for this time of year."
Snow continues to evade the region, though meteorologists are predicting a change in the weather pattern that might bring some white stuff this way later next week.
"We have our initial front coming through Sunday night. It's not particularly wet, but it's cold," said Dawn Fishler, a meteorologist with NWS Reno. "That first system doesn't do much, but it opens the door for more."
Lake Tahoe can expect some snowfall between Wednesday and Sunday of next week, Fishler said. It won't be especially cold with snow levels expected to be between 6500 and 7500 feet.
"This far out it's hard to really put a number on (the amount of snowfall)," Fishler said.
Meanwhile, as another typically big ski holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, rolls in without natural snow, businesses continue to bear the burden of Tahoe's parched early winter. Buckingham South Lake Tahoe Vacation Rentals is booked to around 40 percent capacity for the weekend, down from most Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekends.
"Typically, we'd probably be around 60 to 70 percent," said spokesman Michael Rock. "Presidents Day is kind of spiking for us because there is some buzz about snow going around."
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority executive director Carol Chaplin remained optimistic Friday.
"We're definitely going to feel it this weekend," Chaplin said of the lack of snow for the holiday weekend. "But we're trying to focus on this next storm coming in."