Lake Tahoe digs out from snowstorm
For long-time South Lake Tahoe locals, the past five days have been a return to normal.
“This is how it used to be,” resident Albert Ochoa, said Wednesday while taking a break from shoveling snow outside his home.
Cindy Ochoa, Albert’s wife, agreed.
“It was touch and go on the neighborhood streets,” Cindy said of the road conditions Wednesday morning. The couple has lived in South Lake Tahoe for almost eight years. They lived in Truckee for 15 years prior to moving to the South Shore.
It seems, Cindy added, that some of the newer residents are not used to it.
The winter storm that moved into the region Monday, on the heels of nearly nonstop rain over the weekend, dumped several feet of snow at lake level in a matter of days. In the mountains, the snow was measured in feet. Heavenly Mountain Resort reported more than 5 feet of new snow in 48 hours on Thursday morning. The seven-day total came in at more than 11 feet — 134 inches to be exact.
The conditions — which included a blizzard warning that remained in effect into Wednesday — closed schools, businesses, government offices and even ski resorts, which struggled to keep up with the rapid snowfall and strong winds. By Thursday the South Shore’s ski resorts had resumed operations.
Likewise, George Whittell High School and Zephyr Cove Elementary School in Nevada resumed classes Thursday with limited bus service. Lake Tahoe Community College also resumed classes Thursday, although the college recommended students and staff use their best judgment when trying to determine if roads were safe.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District determined conditions on Thursday were not safe and canceled classes for a fourth day in a row. More good news — at least for students — came later in the day when the district canceled classes Friday.
With large snow berms around the city, many of the roads are too narrow for school buses, while simultaneously presenting hazards for students trying to safely get to bus stops, the district wrote online Thursday.
With the Monday holiday, schools are expected to return to normal schedule Tuesday.
The extended break might be welcome news for students, but the storm sparked some frightening moments as electricity went out and some roadways closed for an extended period of time.
“For me it was scary,” South Lake Tahoe resident Janice Ringhand said Wednesday as she cleared her driveway.
When power in much of South Lake Tahoe went out around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Ringhand found herself with no heat.
She grabbed a blanket and hunkered down with her pets. Fortunately, power was restored for Ringhand and many others in South Lake Tahoe early Wednesday morning.
Others around the lake were not as lucky. Liberty Utilities online outage map reported that 2,080 customers in El Dorado County were impacted by outages as of 7 p.m. In Placer County, the number was 5,585.
Falling trees continued to cause sporadic outages in Liberty’s service area, the company reported late Thursday morning.
Ringhand, a South Shore resident of 25 years, said she was grateful her power came back on when it did, because it would have been impossible to travel anywhere at the time with the amount of snow and road conditions the way they were.
The city is doing a good job considering the amount of snow, she said Wednesday. There was just too much of it to keep all of the roads clear.
“It’s the most I’ve seen in five years,” Ringhand added.
Snow removal crews were working around the clock and by Thursday the public works department had plowed every city street at least once, according to a press release from the city.
Crews continue to work in 12-hour shifts for primary snow removal. The city estimates that widening of streets and snow removal on bike paths will start Saturday morning.
The city issued a reminder that cars are not to park on streets during snow removal, and doing so could lead to a citation and even having the vehicle towed. Damage from the recent storms has led to the closure of the pool at the city’s recreation complex.
While the region is expected to see a break in the weather over the holiday weekend and into next week, current forecasts show another storm moving into the area by the middle of next week.