Lake Tahoe storm stalls traffic, expected to last |

Lake Tahoe storm stalls traffic, expected to last

Christina Proctor

High winds that created blizzard-like conditions Wednesday closed roads and stranded travelers around South Shore.

Chains were required over most mountain passes during the day, but even chains couldn’t get motorists out of the basin on U.S. Highway 50 at one point.

Traffic was held from Twin Bridges to Meyers for more than an hour, starting around 3:40 p.m., as crews worked to remove downed utility lines.

Many Kirkwood employees and skiers heeded a Caltrans warning and left early before the resort was cut-off due to the weather. State Route 88 from 3 1/2 miles east of Silver Lake to Kirkwood was closed for avalanche control, and blowing snow and zero visibility forced Caltrans to close the highway around 2 p.m. from east of Kirkwood to Picketts Junction. An operator at Kirkwood said the skier count was already low Wednesday due to the bad driving conditions. Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, Caltrans officials said crews were working, but there was no estimated time when State Route 88 would open.

“It’s all storm related and nothing really out of the ordinary,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Pat Miller.

State Route 89 from five miles north of the “Y” to Bliss State Park was closed this week due to a snow slide around Emerald Bay. Caltrans workers said they wouldn’t even begin to work on the road until there was a break in the weather.

The National Weather Service reported snow accumulation from 4 to 12 inches at lake level in the Tahoe Basin, and said snow showers should decrease by the evening hours. For Thursday, the forecast was partly cloudy skies with northwest winds from 15 to 25 mph, gusting at the upper elevations at 45 mph, with a chance of snow during the night. Friday through Saturday’s forecasts also predicted snow with morning lows around 20 degrees, and highs at 40.

“There’s another weather system coming in for the weekend, so winds should kick up at the upper elevations,” said Rudy Cruz, weather service specialist.

Sierra Pacific reported a major power outage Wednesday on Kingsbury Grade. Around 3 p.m., 400 customers were without service for about an hour.

“It was mostly residential customers from Palisades Drive going east up the hill. Boulder Lodge at Heavenly was also affected,” said Karl Walquist, spokesman for the company.

Despite the low visibility, accidents were relatively sparse. The California Highway Patrol reported no accidents by 5 p.m. and the Nevada Highway Patrol just one. Two cars collided on U.S. Highway 50 near Round Hill, but no one was injured.

Preparations for this weekend’s World Cup event continued at Heavenly Ski Resort Wednesday. Monica Bandows, director of communications, said everything was still a go for the event. Chair lifts were closed on top of the mountains because of the high winds, and even though snow in town was the consistency of slush, Bandows said conditions on the mountain were good.

“Up on the mountain it’s been all dry,” Bandows said. “It is a wet snow on the lower mountain, but nothing that should affect the competition.”

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