SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - At bus stops and bars, on street corners and at shopping centers, conversation this winter has often revolved around the prevailing lack of winter in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin.
But changing Pacific weather patterns may soon provide Tahoe with a more welcome topic of discussion - snow.
A persistent high pressure ridge across the northern Pacific Ocean has largely prevented precipitation from reaching the Sierra Nevada in recent months. The ridge is expected to give way this week and allow the jet stream to push strong winter storms into the region, according to a forecast from the National Weather Service in Reno.
Despite highs predicted in the 40's, the basin should receive more snow than rain in the days to come, said meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf.
"At lake level, there should be a mix of rain and snow starting Thursday afternoon and continuing into Thursday night," Deutschendorf said. "On Friday we'll get a more intense low pressure system coming through. The snow level should go up to 7,500 or 8,000 feet and stay above 7,000 feet through late evening Friday."
There is a strong likelihood that Friday will see a foot or more of snow above 7,500 feet, he said.
"For the weekend we have another storm system coming through," added Deutschendorf. "There's probably a better chance of snowfall at lake level on Saturday and Sunday. It doesn't look as strong as Friday's system, but should be cooler."
Caltrans plow crews are preparing for the impending storms, with additional plow drivers brought in from outside the basin to help clear roads for the weekend.
"In the South Shore area, we'll have seven extra drivers, so about 40 total for the area," said Caltrans spokesman Gilbert Mohtes-Chan. "In the Truckee, Tahoe City area, there will be seven or eight extra drivers, so about 30 total."
The plows will be ready for action Wednesday evening, he said.
The U.S. Forest Service has also been readying for the storm, according to spokeswoman Lisa Herron. Work on an aspen restoration project near Camp Richardson was wrapping up Tuesday. The remainder of the project will be finished late spring as weather allows, she said.
"Fuels reduction work on the Angora Restoration project may stop depending on how much snow we receive," Herron wrote in an email. "The area is already winterized with appropriate (best management practices) that include soil cover and water bars."
Although excited at the prospect of snow, local businesses still have a wait-and-see mentality, with cautious optimism ruling the day.
"I'm thinking that once the first snow really hits this week and news coverage starts to spread around the state, we'll start getting a lot more calls," said Michael Rock, spokesman for Buckingham Properties. "Media plays such a big part of it."
Greg Tenbroeck, owner of Greg's Snowblower Service and Repair, said he's seen an uptick in business following the snow predictions.
"Early season business back in November and December was outstanding," Tenbroeck said. "Once it didn't snow for a while, the phone kind of stopped ringing. With the announcement of this storm, it's been ringing off the hook."
Kevin Balibrera, owner of Kevin Bali Snow Removal, said he has seen no tangible increase in business due to the current forecast.
"No, people are waiting basically, to see if it's actually going to snow," Balibrera said. "When the snow does come, we'll get a lot of calls from first-timers. But as far as regular seasonal customers go, no, I've had very limited calls."
Frustrated with the dry winter to date, Balibrera decided to take matters into his own hands, baiting the snow with an ambitious home improvement project.
"I decided to tempt old man winter, and went and stripped all of my decks for painting," the 40-year resident said. "Look what happened? Bam, snow's coming."
- Tribune reporters Dylan Silver and Adam Jensen contributed to this story