First winter storm watch |

First winter storm watch

The first winter storm warning for the Lake Tahoe region was issued Wednesday by the National Weather Service. Snow accumulations between 4 and 12 inches were expected above 7,000 feet during the night.

“People planning travel or outdoor activities in the Sierra should be prepared for the first winter storm of the season and the associated hazardous weather conditions,” warned Larry Osterman, senior forecaster at the Reno office of the National Weather Service, about the Wednesday night storm watch. “Mainly over the higher passes, strong southwest winds will cause blowing and drifting snow.”

California Department of Transportation public information officer Laura Featherstone said road crews were on standby for the nighttime storm.

“We’ve been recruiting, training and preparing for this first storm for the last few months,” Featherstone said. “No actual shift is scheduled to work, but if the weather becomes inclement, or if it snows very hard, we have a night shift team available.”

Featherstone said Caltrans staff just finished attaching sand loaders on dump trucks and preparing its fleet of snowplows and rotary plows for the season.

Although Heavenly Ski Resort was open for business around this time last year, Monica Bandows, the resort’s director of marketing, said temperatures have been too high so far this year to begin making snow.

“We’ve been in this weather pattern where, when it was 26 degrees at lake level, it was in the 50’s sometimes on the mountain,” Bandows said. “It’s just been too warm. But we have the snowguns and crews out there and they’ve been checking the forecast – if the temperatures get low enough during this storm, they’ll definitely begin making snow.”

Osterman said lingering rain showers will continue through Thursday at upper elevations, mostly clearing away by the afternoon.

“Wednesday night’s system will move through the region fairly quickly,” he said. “We’re protected from further frontal systems with dry, mild conditions, at least until Monday.”

Aside from the occasional storm, intense winter weather, Osterman said, is not expected until the beginning of December.

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