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Pipes freeze as temperatures drop

Monday was the official first day of winter, and – as if to emphasize that point – a cold air mass sitting over the region caused temperatures to drop to as low as minus 13 degrees in the morning.

Although the temperatures may be colder than what seems normal for this time of year, a specialist for the National Weather Service said that is only because Lake Tahoe winters have been mild in recent years.

“It seems cold because we haven’t had any cold winters since 1990,” said Terry Ryan of the Reno office of the National Weather Service. “We’ve had mild temperatures for the last eight years.”



The cold weather has brought more than just an inconvenience to a lot of South Shore residents. The temperatures have frozen – and broken – a lot of water pipes.

“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” said Betty Pulido of Lake Tahoe Plumbing and Heating.




Brad Rennison, owner of South Lake Tahoe’s Apollo Plumbing and Heating, said he has received so many calls about broken pipes and heaters that he has a two-page waiting list for service.

“I think all the heating contractors are booked,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of calls from people who are frustrated.”

While the cold weather is keeping plumbing and heating contractors occupied, it is also keeping the ski resorts busy.

Oasis Aviation at the Lake Tahoe Airport recorded 3 inches of snow Saturday and another 3 inches Sunday, and the upper elevations at ski resorts received a lot more.

Molly Cuffe, communications coordinator at Heavenly Ski Resort, said the resort recorded about 14 inches over the weekend. However, because of the cold weather, the resort has been making snow 24 hours a day.

“The air quality, temperature and humidity has to be just right to make snow, and this is perfect,” Cuffe said.

Local ski resorts should be in great shape for the holidays.

“It’s looking really good going into Christmas for two reasons: California is getting the snow this year and it’s pretty widely known that Colorado, Utah and the East Coast haven’t been getting as much snow,” said Tania Magidson, spokeswoman for Kirkwood.

“This is really going to set us up for just a fantastic holiday,” Cuffe said. “It gets people excited. They hear about snow and it makes them want to go skiing.”

South Shore authorities, however, wish the snow would make people want to do something else – slow down when driving.

“We had a higher amount of accidents than normal due to the icy conditions and the weather,” said Sgt. Rick Canale of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. “But nothing serious to my knowledge. All fender benders.”

Tony Almaraz, spokesperson for the Nevada Highway Patrol, said he did not know how many traffic accidents happened specifically in Lake Tahoe. However, he said troopers in the Reno, Fallon and Lake Tahoe areas responded to more than 80 accidents, including one fatality in Reno.

“We had a lot wrecks all over the place. People were driving too fast for the conditions,” he said. “A lot of people were probably following too close to the vehicles in front of them. A lot of them didn’t chain up when they should have.”

The California Highway Patrol reported nine accidents over the weekend in the South Shore area. Two had minor injuries and the others were non-injury accidents.

“We just had a bunch of fender benders,” said Steve Gwaltney, CHP public affairs officer. “A lot more than normal, but they were just fender benders, thank goodness.”

The cold temperatures should stick around for at least a few days, according to the National Weather Service.

Ryan said highs will be in the 20s and lows between 0 and 5 until Thursday. Temperatures will start to rise again around Christmas. No serious snow is expected for the rest of the week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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