2019 in review: A big snow season, to historic lake cleanup and fish plant, here are the year’s top stories | TahoeDailyTribune.com

2019 in review: A big snow season, to historic lake cleanup and fish plant, here are the year’s top stories

From “Massive, life-threatening” snow dumps to monster snowmelt to microplastics being discovered in Lake Tahoe, 2019 was full of news, some good, some bad, some stunning and some the same as it ever was.

Following is a year in review highlighting some of the most read stories in the Tribune.


January started with a below average snowpack but that changed a few days later when a three-day winter storm hit the basin.

On the final day of the storm, a longtime Lake Tahoe area resident decided to go snowshoeing and test out a new mapping app on his phone.

Raymond Murdock, 80, recalled “harrowing night lost near Lake Tahoe” to the Tribune.

Murdock got lost, couldn’t figure out the GPS app, and thought “this could be it.” 

He called 911 with a dying phone and that activated search and rescue personnel.

After spending the night pacing in 3-feet deep snow, he heard the best sound of his life, a search and rescue helicopter.


February was defined by historic snowfall with most ski resorts setting records for amount of snow for the month.

In between the hundreds of inches of snow and the National Weather Service saying “life-threatening” conditions persist at Lake Tahoe due to accumulations, was a national weather conference where experts gathered at Stateline to discuss the future climate at Lake Tahoe … and it wasn’t snow-filled.

“Lake Tahoe’s New Reality” was said to be filled with warmer days. By 2050 the snowpack would be cut in half and by 2100, the Sierra Nevada snowpack would be mostly gone, with Tahoe to feel the burn first due to lower elevations than the rest of the range.


The snow kept coming and the snowpack was well above normal. Whole Foods reaffirmed it was coming to South Lake Tahoe and a South Shore man was sentenced for digging up sacred artifacts.

But right near the end of the month, Incline High School athletes and coaches were exposed to a “gruesome” scene while traveling to a sporting event.

A man rented an Uber and had the driver take him near the Mount Rose summit. The passenger brandished a gun, exited the car, went behind a snowbank and took his own life.

While most cars were unaware, the elevated view from the  school bus “had a clear view of the aftermath,” said the school’s principal.

Students were offered counseling and all the support they needed from the school after the event.


Spring skiing was in full swing. Some resorts announced closing dates while Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows made plans to stay open into July and Heavenly Mountain Resort planned to stay open on weekends into May.

While everything was just fine on the slopes, a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office sergeant was lucky to be alive after pursuing a murder suspect at high speed on Kingsbury Grade in South Lake Tahoe.

The suspect exited his car after a long pursuit and fired several shots at the officer from close range but the officer was hit by just one bullet causing a non-life threatening injury.

Law enforcement captured the suspect and the officer went on to tell his harrowing story during the suspect’s sentencing later in the year.


The basin began to thaw slightly, although a couple of storms produced about two more feet of snow.

Lake Tahoe, always in the national news, went to another level went it was discovered Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped $59 million to purchase two private estates on the West Shore.

Whole Foods, while leasing an empty building for a few months, confirms plans to open a store on the South Shore. 

Longtime St. Theresa Catholic Church Rev. John Grace died at age 98 after serving as pastor since before South Lake Tahoe was incorporated.

The month was capped by an apparent fist fight between Douglas County commissioners John Engels and Barry Penzel.

The two stopped a meeting, went into another room where they came to blows. Engels left the altercation with a bloody hand and wrist.


The thaw at Lake Tahoe was in full effect and the snowpack was in heavy melt mode.

Warnings were issued for “massive and dangerous” snowmelt which contributed to a Tahoe visitor losing her footing before she was swept over Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay.

South Shore community members came together to denounce anti-Semitism after graffitti was found under the Trout Creek Bridge.

The graffiti read “Don’t Trust Jews” and angered the community to where a large gathering was held at the site to denounce the action.


July was warm and the hordes flocked to Lake Tahoe. 

Some of the bigger events included the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, a bomb scare and manhunt, impacts of Eldorado-Caesars merger still unclear and law enforcement cracked down on sunbathing at Lake Tahoe.

The American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament set attendance records for the fourth straight year and former NFL quarterback turned broadcaster and golfer Tony Romo won his second straight event, running away from the field.

Eldorado Resorts purchased Caesars Entertainment and the impacts of three Stateline casinos being owned by one owner remain unclear.

And in an effort to crack down on sunbathers, authorities were filmed while arguing with apparent offenders at Secret Cove.


Ski season ended, just two months before the next was scheduled to begin, Luke Bryan rocked the South Shore, agencies test the lake for blue-green algae and, tragically, a man dies competing in a triathlon and Kirkwood ski patroller goes missing. 

The ups and downs for the month were capped by the announcement Gordon Ramsay would open a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant at Stateline.

The renowned chef and television personality, who loves skiing at Lake Tahoe, made the announcement that he would open in the former Sage location, drawing the ire from some and happiness from others.


Just a little over a month after ski season ended, some agencies made their predictions for the upcoming winter.

The Tribune reached out to those agencies and the following story was one of the top read original works for 2019.

The Farmer’s Almanac dubbed the winter of 2020 “The Polar Coaster” and called for some early season snow in November.

A tragic story that month was a big rig fiery crash that claimed the life of a Nevada Union High School graduate.

The big rig driver was trying to swerve out of the way of a Toyota Prius that pulled out in front of him and lost control.

The crash started a fire and badly damaged the highway the was in repair for weeks after.

Also in September, following the discovery of micro plastics in Lake Tahoe, two residents decided to attempt an unprecedented cleanup of the lake using scuba gear. They plan to make a documentary out of the effort.


The ski season begins with Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe opening just over two months after the slopes closed for 2018-19, Whole Foods announced a November opening, fall colors went crazy and the Tribune hosted its inaugural Most Remarkable Women event.

The Fall colors draw hordes of visitors to Lake Tahoe every year and tens of thousands reacted to Whole Foods (finally) announcing an opening date, but a historic fish plant was the top story of the month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted a historic fish-planting event where the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex released 5,000 Lahontan cutthroat trout back into their native waters.

Hundreds gathered on the South Shore to watch and record the fish release.


Cell towers at Lake Tahoe had been a discussion all summer, but were especially popular in November after the Tribune wrote a feature story taking all sides into the equation.

The story will continue into 2020.

South Lake Tahoe was struck by a vandal who decided to damage, and probably kill, several trees near Regan Beach.

A local resident offered a $1,000 reward and police went door-to-door trying to gain any information about who may have performed the destruction to no avail.

From vandalized trees to another unfortunate event for SLTPD was the top story of the month.

The PD arrested longtime local Carol Christensen, aka Christmas Carol, for failing to yield to authorities. 

Christensen was waving to traffic on U.S. Highway 50 (as usual), but was a little too close to traffic for law enforcement.

An officer asked her to get out of the street, but she became belligerent and was subsequently arrested after a verbal confrontation.


Winter storms helped ski resorts open early and expand terrain ahead of schedule. 

The snowpack is well above normal in the basin and the holiday crowds have shown up.

The Tribune wrote about several agencies trying to help Tahoe maintain sustainable tourism, but by far the top story was the Tribune’s sneak peak into Hell’s Kitchen at Harveys Lake Tahoe.

The Tribune took readers behind the scenes and shared that the new, updated, opening date will be in early January.

There have already been 12,000 reservations made for the new restaurant.

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