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Massive storm expected to pack wallop

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneRobert Ramsay, with Q & D construction of Reno, installs support bolts for a foyer on the front of the California Lodge at Heavenly Ski Resort on Wednesday.
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It may not be the mother of all storms, but a series of weather systems that is predicted to move into the region late Friday is sure to punch the parched Sierra with plenty of snow.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued a severe storm watch, with up to 7 feet of snow expected to blanket the mountains, and winds of up to 100 mph around Tahoe area ridges.

“While it’s hard to say when this is through, we’re looking at between 5 and 7 inches of water-equivalent precipitation, which could mean 5 to 7 feet of snow at higher elevations,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Cylke.



With the aid of mostly man-made snow, South Shore ski resorts that have limped along since receiving the first blast early in November, welcome news of the storms.

Sierra-at-Tahoe hopes to open for business with the coming storm.




“Looking at this weekend’s weather forecast, we’re optimistic this storm could bring us the snow we need to open,” said Nicole Belt, spokeswoman for Sierra-at-Tahoe.

Heavenly and Kirkwood ski resorts opened last month.

The first storm expected to arrive Friday could bring snow in the afternoon, but may turn to rain later in the evening. The reason, Cylke explained, is the front will be met with the remains of the Pongsona typhoon, a warm front from the South Pacific. Snow levels are expected to rise to 8,000 feet Friday night.

The wind will be a factor Friday, with gusts between 20 and 40 mph at lake level, and up to 100 mph on the ridge tops.

Saturday’s storm will be much colder, with snow levels expected to be down to 4,500 feet.

“We could see horizontal rain turn to horizontal snow Saturday when the next storm comes in,” Cylke said.

The snow level is expected to drop into the Carson Valley, Carson City and Reno, with the heaviest expected to last through Sunday. Smaller storms will follow Monday and Tuesday.

The Desert Research Institute, an arm of the University of Nevada, is prepared for the storm once it arrives, spokesman John Doherty said Wednesday.

When temperatures drop below freezing, DRI will activate all four of its basin cloud seeding generators, which blow tiny silver iodine particles into the atmosphere. The particles form ice crystals, which produces additional snow.

“We’re set to go. All we have to do is wait for the temperature to drop,” Doherty said.

Jeff Munson may be reached via e-mail at jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com


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