Rainy days on the way: New snowstorm rating system in Tahoe in future? | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Rainy days on the way: New snowstorm rating system in Tahoe in future?

Amanda Fehd
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / This dog was in the right place at the right time as it began to snow Monday afternoon in Pioneer Village. Forecasters say there will be snow above 7,500 feet and rain at the lake.
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While scientists are launching a new way of rating snowstorms in the Northeast, they might have to start gauging rain storms in Tahoe.

It’s going to be precipitation of the unfrozen kind again at lake level Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.

Snow levels will be at 7,500 feet, with 12 to 18 inches of snow expected at higher elevations.

“It will start out mostly as rain, end up as snow at the tail end of it,” said meteorologist Jim Fischer.

A colder storm will move in on Saturday, with snow likely at lake level.

The National Weather Service has implemented a scale with five categories of intensity in the Northeast, similar to the hurricane ranking system. The scale ranks storms from 1, Notable; 2, Significant; 3, Major; 4, Crippling and 5, Extreme.

The rating factors in the number of inches of snow, the land area affected and the number of people affected.

Fischer said there aren’t any plans to implement a similar rating system in the West, but sometimes these kinds of programs spread if they are successful.

“Snow levels are difficult to forecast around here because they are based on complicated air circulation systems and topography,” Fischer said.

The scale was developed for the Northeast because of the economic and transportation impact such storms can have.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Duane Wallace knows that story well.

“We are all tourism farmers dependent on the weather,” Wallace said. Lodging and restaurant numbers are especially impacted when a large storm moves in, he said.

Wallace thought a point system wouldn’t hurt, but would be just another way of packaging the same information. “They already tell use what they know,” he said.

Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger thought a rating system for the West would be a great idea. During winter months, the transportation agency in charge of clearing snow from Highway 50 constantly checks and compares weather information from TV, the Internet and a private weather service.

“Sometimes we get a different answer,” Dinger said. “So it would be really nice to have something simple, another tool we can put in our box.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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