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Lake Tahoe to see next winter storm Thursday

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com
Chairs collect snow during recent storms at Heavenly Mountain Resort. Forecasters are calling for another storm to pass through the region this week. Higher elevations could see up to a foot of new snow. Predictions are calling for 1 to 3 inches at lake level.
Courtesy / Heavenly Mountain Resort |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Weather forecasters are calling for another winter storm to pass through the Tahoe Basin starting Thursday afternoon, Dec. 3, and into Friday morning. The system could once again bring travel delays to the region with snowfall amounts comparable to last week’s storm.

“It’s pretty similar,” Reno-based National Weather Service forecaster Zach Tolby said, comparing the two weather patterns. “It’s a little warmer, but not a lot.”

Forecasters are calling for 1 to 3 inches at lake level with around 3 to 8 inches at higher elevations. Some of the higher peaks along the Sierra Crest could see up to a foot of new snow.

The storm is expected to include high winds particularly at higher elevations.

“We’re definitely expecting travel impacts on Thursday, especially in the late afternoon and early evening,” Tolby said.

Wind could once again lead to turbulent conditions on the lake as well.

OpenSnow.com Tahoe forecaster Bryan Allegretto said the snow will be heavier than the previous storm, consistent with more seasonal snow conditions.

“It’s not going to be that ridiculous fluffy powder,” Allegretto said, comparing it to previous systems.

While some climate models suggested the potential for up to 18 inches in some places, Allegretto remained conservative with his prediction. This storm is also expected to bring less snow to the Carson Valley than last week.

“I don’t want to get too hyped on it,” Allegretto said, referring to higher predictions. “I’m not going higher than 12 inches right now.”

And while early season storms have shown promise — especially when compared to recent snow years — Allegretto is quick to point out that the region is still below average in regard to precipitation.

As of Tuesday afternoon U.S. Department of Agriculture snow-water equivalent measuring stations (Snotel) were reporting between 65 and 70 percent of average for this time of year for the South Lake Tahoe Region.

“We’re way behind for the month and for the year,” Allegretto said. “It’s amazing the perception of the snowfall, if it’s snowing at lake level.”

By contrast to the last four winters, however, Tolby said, “We’ve had a good start.”

He described the snowpack as closer to average.

Allegretto said larger storms would go a long way to catching up and gave reason for optimism closer to New Year’s. He described recent storms as only delivering moderate snowfall.

“That should change in December,” he said. “Once we get past mid-December, I think there will be a good chance of seeing a bigger storm.”

A strong El Niño typically has the most influence on West Coast weather patterns January through March, according to forecasters.

And while Tahoe has had a tendency to fall between higher precipitation to the south and lower to the north, recent forecasting models have been increasingly positive.

“We’re expecting higher chances of above-average precipitation farther north,” Tolby said. “Odds are slightly tilted toward above-average precipitation for California.”


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