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March 15, 2012
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Heavy snowfall expected this weekend

This week's storms have brought little more than a dismal drizzle to lake level, but colder temperatures - and bigger snow totals - are expected from a system moving through the Lake Tahoe region this weekend.

The National Weather Service in Reno issued a winter storm warning Thursday afternoon. The warning will be in effect from 5 p.m. today to 5 p.m. Saturday.

"Several feet of snow are possible above 7,000 feet with the highest totals near the Sierra Crest," according to the warning. "Below 7,000 feet ... 10 to 20 inches are possible with the highest amounts near and west of Highway 89 Friday night and Saturday morning."

The West slope of the Sierra Nevada and North Lake Tahoe were hit hardest by early-week storms, with precipitation tapering off as the system moved east and south across the lake, said .Jessica Kielhorn, a meteorologist technician with the NWS.

Although temperatures measured at Lake Tahoe Airport have stayed at least a few degrees above freezing since Saturday morning, South Shore ski resorts have still benefited from the moisture.

As of late Thursday afternoon, Heavenly Mountain Resort reported 4 inches of snow had fallen in the past 48 hours, Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort reported 19 inches from this week's storm and Kirkwood Mountain Resort reported 20 inches.

Crested Butte, Colo., resident Geyr Greve said that, although wet and heavy, the snow was stacking up at Heavenly Thursday.

"It was actually really good," Greve said. "When the temperatures get colder, it's going to be pretty sweet."

A strong cold front is expected to move into the area by Friday night, with snow levels dipping to about 2,500 feet Saturday.

High winds are also expected to accompany the system. Southwest winds of 15 to 30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph are predicted. Gusts of more than 100 mph are likely over mountain ridges.

Motorists are advised to slow down, allow extra time when traveling, carry tire chains and be prepared for emergencies.

"Snow and gusty winds will produce hazardous travel over the passes Friday," according to the winter storm warning. "Whiteout conditions are likely in the Tahoe Basin Friday night and early Saturday morning."

This week's rain and snow is good news for California, which has been well below its average precipitation totals for the year. The state's snowpack was 36 percent of normal as of Thursday morning, up four percentage points from two days earlier.

That number is expected to go up as the colder storm system moves in this weekend, said Maury Roos, with the California Department of Water Resources.

"We're hopeful that what seemed to be a pretty grim year is going to turn out OK, although still quite a bit less than average," he said.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Mar 15, 2012 09:18PM Published Mar 15, 2012 09:16PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.