Editorial: Local agencies respond admirably to big storm | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Local agencies respond admirably to big storm

Last weekend’s storms may not have eclipsed historic records, but they still packed a wallop.

Thank goodness our national, state and local agencies prepared for the onslaught and did the best they could to ameliorate the storm’s dangers.

The National Weather Service (NWS), for example, went out on a limb by announcing that three large systems were percolating in the Pacific and likely would hit the Sierra mountain region with potentially deadly force.

The NWS was right on.

Meteorologist Jane Hollingsworth, with the NWS Reno-based office, explained that the office’s forecasting tools all pointed to a cluster of three potent storms headed straight into California.

“It was remarkable, because we usually see variations of all of our models,” she said. “What we had was very rare, and because of that, we were confident enough to stick our necks out well ahead of the storms.”

It didn’t take long for the city of South Lake Tahoe to take notice.

City officials began tracking the storm Dec. 30 and over the next several days identified potential problems.

Moving critical-care patients from Barton Memorial Hospital in case the hospital’s emergency room reached capacity was an immediate concern. Barton and city officials formulated plans to move patients to the Lake Tahoe Airport, then to advanced facilities if needed.

Meanwhile, fire and police ensured staffing was maintained to meet potential storm-related issues. The city’s fire department, for example, maintained an additional paramedic ambulance to handle call overflow, typical for our area’s major storms.

The city’s Public Works Department placed its snow-removal staff on 12-hour shifts to maximize its efforts. This worked well during the storm, city officials told the Tribune.

City leaders briefed key staff twice daily, focusing particularly on potential emergency-center operations. Officials promptly distributed briefings to the Tahoe Daily Tribune and other media outlets.

The city regularly participated in state emergency planning conference calls during the storm and coordinated plans to use the city Parks and Recreation Center as a shelter site should the storm knock out power.

City departments began preparing for the storm well in advance, said City Manager David Jinkens. City Fire Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti coordinated the emergency response.

“All government agencies worked together the way we should to protect our community,” Jinkens said. “We have learned important lessons from the Angora fire.”

Caltrans and the Nevada Department of Transportation reacted swiftly as well, focusing their efforts on removing piled-up snow.

Caltrans has been criticized for years for moving snow to the middle of the California side of Highway 50, thus reducing access points from cross streets. The agency repeated the procedure during this storm but cleared the berms expeditiously.

Workers also consistently and efficiently cleared side streets, though the resulting ice berms can be frustrating. But let’s face it: Heavy storms cause problems, despite our preparedness.

So, hats off to our public agencies.

Nice job, everyone. And thank you.

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