Deadly winter weather abates |

Deadly winter weather abates

Mother Nature’s powerful one-two punch on the West Coast this weekend subsided Sunday, leaving in its wake a lake rescue, two fatalities on Echo Summit and an end to a long dry spell and many eager snow enthusiasts.

On Sunday, authorities responded to a capsized boat with people in the water at lower Echo Lake. The lake, about a third the size of Fallen Leaf Lake, is a gateway to Desolation Wilderness.

“Apparently, their boat hit a rock coming into the marina,” El Dorado County sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Watson said, adding they were lucky.

The three men from Sacramento, whose names and ages were unavailable, managed to get to shore, despite the rough water and the lake’s temperatures hovering between the high 30s and low 40s.

One man had fallen out of the aluminum fishing boat when winds whipped the craft around. His companions got soaked trying to pull him back into the motorized vessel and the boat began taking on water. Despite their unsuccessful efforts, their friend managed to get himself to shore which was about about 20 feet away.

Deputy Greg Almos said they were up there to secure a summer cabin.

The incident didn’t end there. When they tried to start their vehicle buried in 3 feet of snow the radiator had seized, leaving them stranded and cold. Finally the vehicle started so they could get warm though the deep snow prevented them from driving out.

A rescue team went up the lake access road and brought the three out on snowmobiles. The first deputy on the scene had to snowshoe in.

The three refused medical treatment.

The weekend’s harrowing events started Friday at 5:07 p.m. when two UC Davis graduate students were crushed to death. They were headed to South Lake Tahoe when their vehicle was crushed by a tree on Highway 50 near Tahoe Pines Road on Echo Summit.

The El Dorado County Coroner’s Office identified the victims as Annette Marie Lentz, 32, and Christine Elizabeth Owlett, 41. Both lived in Davis.

The California Highway Patrol closed the major basin thoroughfare for three hours.

Area law enforcement was hopping all weekend, answering calls of fender benders and spinouts throughout the basin.

Caltrans had chain restrictions on Highway 50 over Echo Summit and on Highway 89 on Luther Pass and between D.L. Bliss State Park and Tahoe City at various times during peak snow periods.

The National Weather Service reported more than 4 inches of snow at lake level and 5 inches in Tahoe Paradise.

The deluge dented a dry period for South Lake Tahoe but failed to keep Nevada’s climatologist from a consideration to revive the Governor’s Drought Committee.

With the exception of a trace of snow showers on Oct. 1 and 2, Tahoe’s last precipitation was reported July 19 when thunder and lightning offered a summer show in the skies.

The weekend’s mix of rain and snow gently nudged up the lake level by less than an inch. As of Thursday, the lake had bottomed out at 6,223 feet — just under its natural rim.

This week’s forecast calls for a drying off with high clouds until the next storm predicted for Saturday, the same day Kirkwood Mountain Resort plans to open. The Alpine County ski area will offer access to four chair lifts, including the Cornice Express Quad.

Tahoe ski resorts — preparing for an El Ni-o-driven season — reported snowfall amounts of more than 2 feet.

With the storms, ski resorts either opened or planned their dates. Mt. Rose and Mammoth Mountain opened over the weekend, following Boreal’s first operation on Halloween.

Soda Springs announced Sunday that it would open today. Heavenly Ski Resort has slated Nov. 22 as its opening.

Sierra-at-Tahoe’s 2002-03 inauguration is undetermined at this time, though they are looking at Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, the sticky stuff kept two Vasquez brothers at play Sunday afternoon.

The two boys, Notanee, 11, and Miltaiye, 8, built two facing forts outside their home behind the Town and Country Center. They estimated the forts took a half hour to build.

“You ready?” Miltaiye asked, peaking through his peep hole.

Notanee responded with the promise of sending a “bomb” — a foot-wide white globe a foot in diameter symmetrically packed with young hands.

He said he aimed for his brother’s peep hole, unloading all his ammunition at once while his brother hunkered down behind his fort waiting for the barrage to end.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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