New layer of Sierra snow |

New layer of Sierra snow

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneA skier takes advantage of one of many recent powder days at Heavenly Ski Resort.

A fast-moving winter storm blew through Lake Tahoe and northern Nevada Monday morning, catching tow-truck drivers, plow operators and even meteorologists by surprise.

The storm brought 3 to 4 inches of heavy snow at lake level and between 8 to 10 inches at 8,000 feet, the National Weather Service in Reno reported.

“We weren’t expecting such a heavy snowfall,” meteorologist Ray Collins said.

Towing services and law enforcement were busy with spinouts and fender benders.

“We were swamped,” Welcome’s Auto Body owner Roy Testa said.

The auto repair shop responded to six calls involving vehicle crashes in about four hours.

Testa even noticed a few repeat customers, having their second cars towed in after their first vehicles were wrecked in the last storm.

“This one caught us by surprise,” said Bob Davis, Tahoe day supervisor for the California Department of Transportation.

Davis said Caltrans scrambled late Sunday night and early Monday morning to get plow drivers and grader operators lined up to handle the snow.

The California Highway Patrol in Tahoe and Truckee responded to numerous spinouts and minor crashes. A fender bender on South Upper Truckee involved a vehicle sliding into the back end of a school bus with one student on board, CHP Tahoe reported. No one was hurt.

The U.S. Forest Service in Truckee issued an avalanche advisory on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada between Yuba and Sonora passes. Avalanche forecaster Bob Moore said the possibility of avalanches was considerable outside developed recreational areas.

The new foot of snow accumulating in the higher elevations Monday may have increased hazardous conditions in the backcountry, prompting Sierra-at-Tahoe to delay the opening of its backcountry gates to the last week of December.

“We’ve had a lot of heavy snow. We just want to make sure it’s safe back there,” spokeswoman Megan Waskiewicz said. Otherwise, the South Shore ski area is fully opened.

Heavenly Ski Resort also reports its terrain completely open for snow riders, with the exception of the North Bowl and Boulder lift and run on the Nevada side, Vice President of Marketing John Wagnon said. The resort had planned to keep the Boulder area closed as a cost-cutting measure.

Resorts around the lake expect to benefit from the superb skiing conditions for the upcoming holiday weekend.

“We’re very pleased with the way the season is shaping up,” Northstar-at-Tahoe spokesman Toby Baird said. Northstar is fully opened, as well as Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe.

Prime conditions have allowed Kirkwood Mountain Resort to open 60 kilometers of groomed trails with skating lanes at its Nordic center.

And the snowfall is far from over. The weather service predicts the next storm to move in Wednesday afternoon, dumping at least a foot of snow above 7,000 feet. The slow mover is expected to linger through Friday afternoon.

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