Mother Nature delivered some much-needed snow in South Lake Tahoe on Thursday, blanketing most roofs, ridges and roads with 8 to 12 inches of powder.
The wet weather is needed if the region hopes to pull itself out of what experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture were calling an extreme drought earlier this month.
It may take a few more storms before snowfall gets closer to hitting its season average — if it does at all — but the snow South Shore did receive was a welcome sight for many locals.
“This is the break we’ve been looking for,” Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, said in a statement.
Snow depth at Phillips Station near Echo Summit reached 12.4 inches by about 11 a.m. Thursday, according to a survey by the Department of Water Resources.
Snowplows were out in full force around town, and people could be seen clearing their driveways for the first time in weeks.
Around the area, the National Weather Service reported 8 inches of heavy snow at Incline Village, 7 inches of snow at King Beach and 3.5 inches of snow at Tahoe City by noon.
Heavenly Mountain Resort announced that it received 10 to 12 inches of new snow as of 8 a.m.
More than 8 inches had fallen at Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort by 4 p.m., spokesman Steve Hemphill said in an email.
The snow might have been good for the resorts, but it kept emergency crews and utility companies busy as they responded to a number of weather-related problems.
About 3,200 people near the “Y” lost power for at least 30 minutes, said Randy Kelly, business manager at Liberty Utilities. Initial reports of the outage came in about 1:30 p.m., and power was restored by 2:30 p.m.
Kelly said he didn’t know what caused the outage, but suspected it was from snow damage or fallen branches.
He was also uncertain what caused an outage in the Camp Richardson, Fallen Leaf Lake and Cascade Lake areas, he said. About 560 customers use power in those areas during the summer, but it wasn’t clear how many experienced power loss Thursday.
“It’s been busy,” Kelly said, “but it could have been a lot worse.”
Emergency services seemed to keep busy, too, as they responded to several vehicle-related incidents during the storm.
One was a school bus loaded with Zephyr Cove Elementary School students that slid into a small snow bank on the side of Kingsbury Grade. No children were injured in the incident, and Principal Nancy Cauley said the students were delivered safely to school.
On Highway 50 near Meyers, traffic was being stopped about 11 a.m. because of vehicle spinouts close to Echo Summit.
With snow now on the ground — and with all the activity resulting from the storm — it may seem like Lake Tahoe is coming out of its major drought, but DWR official’s said that’s not the case.
Survey readings from Thursday showed the snowpack’s statewide water content at 12 percent of average for this time of year. That’s the lowest snowpack water content reading since the statewide records began in 1960.
The key moving forward will be water conservation, DWR Director Mark Cowin said.
“This winter remains dry, making it very unlikely our record drought will be broken this year,” he said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we all need to save every drop we can in our homes and places of work.”