It will snow, forecasters say |

It will snow, forecasters say

Jeff Munson

A winter storm packing heavy wind and snow was expected to land in the Sierra today, making for dangerous driving conditions for holiday travelers.

The National Weather Service in Reno issued a winter storm warning through 4 p.m. today, with snow levels dropping to lake level and up to 2 feet of snow above 7,000 feet.

While the brunt of the storm is expected to hit the northern-most stretches of the Sierra, forecasters say the Lake Tahoe Basin could get its share, with 6 to 10 inches expected at around the 6,000-foot level.

Winds were clocked at 90 mph Sunday afternoon at Mount Rose and Slide Mountain, north of Tahoe, as the storm began to make its way into the basin. At least two power lines fell in the Spring Creek area near Camp Richardson.

The wind is expected to continue throughout the storm, making for blizzard-like conditions earlier this morning. Motorists are encouraged to carry snow chains today as the storm is not expected to let up until this afternoon.

“It’s a pretty good, quick storm. We have a good amount of moisture feed off of the Pacific,” said weather service forecaster Brian O’Hara. “The storms will help bring the snowpack up, which will help with the water situation, and more snow is good for the ski areas.”

December has been a wetter than normal month on the books, with more than 12 inches of rain and snow falling in the basin, according to the weather service. However, many of the storms that came through were warm in nature, with snow levels above 8,000 feet. In South Lake Tahoe, 8.33 inches of rain has fallen in December, with 7.5 inches of snow, according to Simon Smith, a National Weather Service weather watcher on the South Shore.

Today’s storm, however, could break the rain cycle, which is good news for South Shore area ski resorts. While snow conditions have been decent, they will almost certainly become better if the storms brings cold temperatures.

“Conditions are good out here. It’s been more like spring skiing. The groomers have gotten us into great shape and the snow has softened up,” said Tracy Miller, spokeswoman for Kirkwood Mountain Resort. “We’ve gotten through this (warmer weather) pretty well. We’re really now looking forward to powder conditions.”

At Heavenly Mountain Resort, the warm weather has brought people to the mountain, where conditions through Sunday morning made for perfect skiing, said John Wagnon, vice president of marketing and sales.

“We started out the season with great coverage and the ability to make a lot of snow coming into the holiday. We had the warm storm come in but it didn’t really diminish our coverage on the upper mountain,” he said. “With the storm coming in, we’re looking to adding 12 or more inches to our already 3 to 4 foot base.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe reports sizeable holiday crowds, and people on the slopes Christmas day using their new equipment. While temperatures did climb during the week allowing for some melting, the mountain remains 100 percent opened.

“Locals are more attuned to the weather. But I think when people plan their vacation, they want to go out and have a good time – whether it is skiing, boarding, ski lessons or trying on all their new Christmas presents, said Sierra spokeswoman Nicole Klay.

Another storm is expected to move into the Sierra on Wednesday, also bringing with it more snow, and, perhaps another storm will land in the Sierra by Friday or Saturday, O’Hara said.

“It looks like seasonable temperatures through the week which means not too much melting so the snowpack should stick around,” O’Hara said. “We will start off the new year good, water wise.”

A year ago, the Sierra received several feet of snow after Christmas and into the New Year, bringing with it enough snowpack through the spring to take the basin out of drought status.

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