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Endless winter: Tahoe residents brace for more

Patrick McCartney

Facing a forecast of a big snowstorm for the last weekend in March, Shirley Reinschmidt of Stateline tries to put this winter’s El Nino weather into perspective.

“I can remember years when it snowed clear up through June,” recalls Reinschmidt, a member of the Happy Hoofers, a senior tap-dance troupe at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center. “This year it’s actually better. But this is the first year I’ve felt antsy. I have cabin fever.”

Reinschmidt and other Happy Hoofers took a break from a workout Thursday to reflect on what it means to live through a mountain winter. Attitudes ranged from the stoic to the simply fed-up.

“It lasts and lasts and lasts,” explains Pat Brown of Stateline about winters at Lake Tahoe. “I had my swimsuit out when I visited Los Angeles a week ago, and didn’t put it away. I’d like just one day to lay on the beach.”

By contrast, Bobbie Baldwin of South Lake Tahoe dares Mother Nature to bring it on.

“I love the winter,” she confesses. “I love to see the icicles. When the sun shines through them, it makes beautiful rainbows in the house – like a prism. But I will say that my husband gets tired of shoveling.”

This year’s season has had its wintry spells, but by local standards doesn’t measure up to the truly historic years, believes Bobbette Kuklis of South Lake Tahoe.

“We have nothing to complain about,” she says. “We haven’t had any sustained storms. I remember one New Year’s Day when the snow didn’t stop for six days and six nights. In 1982, I couldn’t even get up here. But I don’t mind it. When you get snowed in, you can catch up on your housekeeping – and I’ve got some cleaning to do.

Caring for four horses at her Mesa Vista ranch in Alpine County, Marianna Pinkston is unimpressed with this year’s winter, which has built a snowpack that is a third deeper than average.

“In past years, I’ve gone through drifts like that,” she observes, gesturing at her shoulders. “This year, the drifts have been down here.” She gestures at her knees. “This winter’s been long, but not big. If we were bears, we would just go and hibernate.”

More than a few Lake Tahoe residents might be tempted to hibernate this weekend, as one of the larger and colder storms of the season slides down from the Gulf of Alaska. Between 7 and 15 inches of snow are expected to fall at lake level by Friday night, followed by heavy snow overnight and snow showers on Saturday and Sunday.

“This will look like winter again,” cautioned Doug Armstrong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno. “This is not a spring storm. People should be prepared for winter conditions in the mountains. There is some similarity to the same time in the El Nino year of 82-83, when in late March and early April we had a large snowstorm.”

That late-season week of snow led to widespread avalanches, including a fatal avalanche at Alpine Meadows.

April will also begin on a wet note, Armstrong said. A fairly strong trough will sweep through the Sierra and Great Basin on Wednesday, with little warming expected between storms.

The forecast should hold no surprises for the Happy Hoofers, who have seen more than their share of mountain winters.

“I won’t mind,” admits Reinschmidt. “As long as it gets over quick, and as long as it’s the last storm of the year.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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