Rain, snow forecast for Lake Tahoe could be record breaking

Officials warn heavy precipitation could cause floods, landslides particularly in Caldor burn scar

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A possible record breaking storm headed towards Lake Tahoe is expected to dump heavy rain and multiple feet of snow that could trigger landslides and floods particularly in the Caldor Fire burn scar.

The National Weather Service in Reno is forecasting three systems that will impact the region starting Friday with the finale being the “main event” Sunday through Tuesday that could drop more than 3 feet of heavy, wet snow on the mountains in the basin.

“After digging through all of the probabilistic guidance, this event is shaping up to be one for the record books,” the service said Thursday morning.

The first system is expected to drop about a quarter inch to a half inch of rain at Tahoe with snow levels around 8,500-10,000 feet. The levels will drop and a shot of snow may happen behind the cold front on Friday afternoon. Lingering showers may result in pass level travel difficulties from late afternoon into the early evening hours, the service said.

Winds will be in the 25-35 mph range with stronger gusts up to 80 mph on ridgetops.

The second fast-moving system with more rain and snow above 7,500 feet is expected for Saturday, but the bulk of the rain is staying north of Tahoe and officials are expecting under a tenth of an inch.

“Saturday morning may be a good day to clean those drains and gutters ahead of the storm,” the service said in a special statement.

For the main event, the service said that after looking back none of the late October reanalyses were this wet between 1979 and 2009.

Liquid totals may exceed several inches along the Sierra crest. The service said the chance for liquid totals of 4 inches or greater are about 60% for areas in the Tahoe Basin and northward, while areas south of the basin will have about a 35% chance.

By Monday night into Tuesday morning, snow levels are expected to fall to near 5,500 feet, well below lake level.

“As the system evolves and becomes colder, we’re talking about feet of heavy, wet snow in the high Sierra,” the service said. “The Tahoe Basin could receive about 2-3-plus feet of snow.”

El Dorado County officials said in a press release Wednesday afternoon that the conditions could trigger debris flow events throughout the Caldor burn scar with particular impact in Strawberry, Phillips Tract and parts of Grizzly Flats.

“The upcoming weather event could result in flooding, causing currently unstable trees and other vegetation to fall onto roadways, create landslides, and impact our watersheds,” said Brendan Ferry, deputy director of the county’s Tahoe Planning and Stormwater Division. “Ash from the Caldor Fire and soil movement will undoubtedly occur and we are asking that all residents and travelers in these areas and along U.S. Highway 50 be on high alert for these hazards and take appropriate precautions to mitigate the storm’s impact.”

Officials said those in homes or vehicles near steep slopes, canyons, gorges and the mouths of mountain streams are at greatest risk of potential hazards.

An oncoming debris flow may include the sound of rushing water, changes in water from clear to muddy, or the sound of large rocks crashing into each other and typically occur within 15 minutes of a heavy rainfall.

To be alerted to critical emergency information, sign up for the county’s Code Red system by visiting

To report a road hazard, call the department of transportation at 530-642-4909 or email

Weather Information:

Informational Video – Flood After Fire

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