Powder days on the way
The first significant storm of the winter is expected to blow in tonight and last through early Friday, just in time for the New Year’s holiday weekend.
With many holiday revelers already in town, the storm is expected to bring 1 to 2 feet of snow to lake level and 2 to 4 feet above 7,000 feet.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch on Tuesday. Following tonight’s storm, heavier accumulations are expected on Thursday, tapering off on Friday.
“This has the potential of being a big storm,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Brong. “Our concern is the length of time it will move through the area. It could take between one and two days.”
A smaller weather system will bring a couple of inches of snow over the weekend, but much of the heavy stuff should be gone by early Friday.
“Right now we think the weekend will bring quick bursts of snow,” Brong said.
Meanwhile, Caltrans and the Nevada Department of Transportation road crews are assembled for what could be a two days of around-the-clock snow removal.
On the South Shore, about 80 snow-removal workers are assigned for the week, with 40 workers each assigned to 12-hour shifts, said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger.
“We have to expect the worst and hope for the best,” Dinger said. “When the heavy stuff comes we will jump on it as soon as we can, realizing there will be some heavy traffic involved.”
On the Nevada side, snow-removal crews will be out in full force, with at least eight workers assigned in 12-hour shifts to each major roadway throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Unlike Caltrans, which plows snow to the middle of the road and hauls it away, NDOT pushes the snow off to the sides of the road, and then uses blowers to build walls of snow.
“We’re expecting a couple days of continual work,” said NDOT spokesman Scott Mcgruder. “We’re stockpiled and ready with sand and salt and work crews.”
Meanwhile, resorts are rejoicing over the prospect of having more snow added to their early season base.
“We’ve had good steady crowds on the mountain. With Christmas on Saturday and New Year’s on Saturday, it seems like people went ahead and took the whole week off to enjoy the great conditions at Tahoe,” said Nicole Belt, spokeswoman for Sierra-at-Tahoe.
Belt doesn’t believe the storms will hamper travel because most people who plan to stay through New Year’s are already here, plus the heavy part of the storm is supposed to end by Friday.
Ski resorts such as Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort and Kirkwood offer bus service to and from the slopes from at least 40 different locations throughout the South Shore.
The storm will only add to the holiday skier experience, said Heavenly spokeswoman Molly Cuffe.
“Thanks to the record early-season snow and our snow-making system … we’ve been able to consistently offer high-quality skiing for our guests,” Cuffe said. “Of course, we always get excited when meteorologists begin to talk about major winter storms with snow totaling in feet by the end of the week. I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than with a big powder day at the mountain.”
Winter driving tips
Allow enough time. Trips to the mountains can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.
— Keep windshield and windows clear. You may want to stop at a safe turnout to use a snow brush or scraper. Use the car defroster and a clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog.
Slow down. A highway speed of 65 miles an hour may be safe in dry weather but is an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt buckled and leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Bridge decks and shady spots can be icy when other areas are not. Remember to avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles that have flashing lights; visibility may be so restricted during a storm that it is difficult to see slow-moving equipment.
When stalled, stay with your vehicle and try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth. Be alert to any possible exhaust or monoxide problems.