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Snow cools holiday weekend

Photos by Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / On tour with Trek America, a Seattle-based company, Eva Matlschweiger, from Austria, and the rest of the group awoke to a surprise Saturday morning at Campground by the Lake.
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It seems that only at Lake Tahoe will it be 70 degrees and sunny one day and, less than 24 hours later, temperatures drop and snow begins to fly.

And some would say Memorial Day weekend especially happens to be one of those times when the weather seems to be a factor.

Roundhill Safeway clerk Cindy Austin said she’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years and only remembers a handful of Memorial Day weekends where the weather at some point wasn’t cold and blustery.



South Lake Tahoe reported 2 inches of snow on Saturday, with a low of around 23 degrees. It was enough to send some people packing for warmer ground.

Campground By the Lake in South Lake Tahoe looked about 20 percent full on Sunday afternoon.



Thirty-year Tahoe resident Nora Murphy and friend Jack Smith decided to spend the weekend at the campground to be close to the lake and enjoy the outdoors.

On Saturday they woke up to two inches of snow.

“The whole place was sold out, and we watched everyone just pack up and leave,” Murphy said.

“If we’d known it was going to snow, we’d have made other plans. It was cold and we were surprised. But we stuck it out and it’s a beautiful day today,” Smith said.

Climatologists, the National Weather Service and Lake Tahoe weather folklorists agree Memorial Day weekend has had its share of inclement weather.

The years “2001, 2002, 2003 were very nice. I think we got spoiled because Mother Nature is making up for it now,” says Michelle Brecker, climatologist for the National Climate Center in Reno.

Last year, the Memorial Day weekend had thunderstorms, some sunshine and was considered blustery for much of the time. Other holiday weekends have been marred by rain or snow.

According to the Climate Center, Tahoe’s average May temperature is 59.7 degrees, with an average low of 32.9 degrees and 3.7 inches of snowfall within the month.

“I tell people when they come here to carry a shovel and carry your sunscreen because either way, both may be necessary,” said Don Lane, longtime ranger and historian for the U.S. Forest Service.

While humans who are not used to Tahoe’s climate are more likely to shiver when the thermometer drops, the animals are doing fine, making good use of their fur during times like this.

“They’ve been out of hibernation for a while now that the snow is gone, but in Tahoe there is always some unknown,”Lane said. “The more sensitive species will crawl back and hunker down into their holes, inside trees and behind rocks.”

Even though some will try to fight it all the way, visitors adapt to the cold too, adding extra layers and a heavy parka.

Some are bound and determined to enjoy spring. You’ll even see people wearing shorts and sandals. But come night time, when the temperatures drop and if the snow flies, they’ll change clothes. “It’s called hypothermia,” Lane said.

Memorial Day weekend weather is always iffy, said Mark McLaughlin, a Carnelian Bay historian, author and folklorist.

It has been known to snow at Lake Tahoe every month of the year and the fact that it snowed on Memorial Day should come as no surprise, he said.

“Whether it snows on Cinco de Mayo, the second week of June, July 4 or Labor Day weekend, Tahoe has seen snow on the holiday,” McLaughlin said. “I think of it as Mother Nature wanting to mess some with the tourists.”

As far as advice goes, the author who has penned a book due in October on the winter of 1846-47 and its relation to the Donner Party, said unpredictability is what the Sierra is all about.

“Don’t let this one bum you out,” he said. “Who knows? Next (Memorial weekend) the weather might be great.”

Visit McLaughlin’s Web site at http://www.thestormking.com

– Tribune staff writer Amanda Fehd contributed to this story.


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