Snow is here, riders rejoice |

Snow is here, riders rejoice

The first major storm of December attacked the South Shore with a one-two punch of wind and snow that answered prayers for many but provided headaches for others.

The storm dropped more than a foot of snow for an early holiday present to ski resorts. Sierra-at-Tahoe plans to open early this week while Kirkwood Mountain Resort targeted Thursday for a full opening.

Heavenly Ski Resort, which received 2 feet mountainwide, is hoping the storm will allow Stagecoach Run to be accessible.

“We expect trails opening up every day from this point forward,” said Molly Cuffe, Heavenly’s spokeswoman.

Wind gusts reached more than 70 mph from the Pacific storm, which is one of a series of systems headed this way.

“It tapped into some colder air from farther north,” said Steve Goldstein, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Reno. “The colder air mixed with the warmer air already in place contributed to the wind. There was a lot of energy coming in.”

The wind shut down Heavenly at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and caused a Nevada- side power outage that affected Sunday’s opening, Cuffe said. The gondola was closed for the weekend because of the winds. Gusts topping 80 mph at the ridges caused Kirkwood to close at 1:40 p.m. Saturday.

Both resorts were open Sunday and are considering discounts for those who bought tickets Saturday, officials said.

Kirkwood reported Saturday accumulations between 18 and 24 inches, while Sunday brought 12 to 24 inches.

Searchers were looking Sunday for a skier believed to be trapped in an avalanche near a Mt. Rose ski resort.

Washoe County sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Brown said details were sketchy.

“I don’t know how it started or how big it is,” he said. “All I know is they think someone is trapped in snow.”

Searchers were hampered Sunday evening by snow, cold temperatures and poor visibility, Brown said.

The high winds caused alarms to malfunction and trees to topple throughout the South Shore. One fell into a power line on San Francisco Boulevard on Saturday causing a 90-minute power outage for about 2,000 residents in the surrounding area as well as into Meyers, the Al Tahoe area and along Pioneer Trail, said Faye Anderson, a spokeswoman for Sierra Pacific Power Company.

Another power outage, also caused by a tree, left Glenbrook residents without power for a couple hours.

“Actually the south end of the lake was not as hard hit as the valley, North Lake Tahoe and Truckee area,” Anderson said Sunday, adding the North Shore had about 1,800 residents without power since Saturday.

“We brought up crews from Las Vegas from Nevada Power,” Anderson said. “We’ve lost between 75 to 100 power poles that were damaged as a result of this windstorm.”

The power company is asking people to conserve power while crews complete repairs. Conservation includes not putting on Christmas lights today and turning off appliances when not in use.

The South Lake Tahoe Fire Department had six calls concerning trees on electrical lines, said Capt. Brad Piazzo.

The tree could become electrified and dangerous to the touch. With future storms expected this week, the captain advises residents to walk their property and get rid of dead trees.

One 85-foot tree crashed down on five cars and damaged a motor home on 10th Street Friday. Ken Curtzwiler from K & K Enterprises Tree Service and Roofing Hauling was driving past when he saw the destruction.

“That was one of the worst ones I’ve seen in 26 years,” Curtzwiler said. The owners used the tree for firewood. Curtzwiler guessed the amount to be more than two cords.

On Sunday, El Dorado County sheriff’s Deputy Terry Fleck reported no search and rescue calls. The weather did put 30 volunteers on standby, Fleck said.

Highways 50 and 89 had chain controls Saturday afternoon, which were lifted Sunday by 2:20 p.m. The controls started at Pollock Pines, at about 4,000 feet.

El Nino, a weather phenomenon which can contribute to above-average precipitation levels, is playing a role in the storm parade, Goldstein said.

El Nino is increasing the strength of the jet stream and sending more storms into the southern and central regions of California, Goldstein said. Lake Tahoe sits on the cusp of the jet stream and could reap the benefits.

Two to three feet is expected to fall from midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday at the higher summits. There will be a break in the system before more snow expected on Thursday. Winds are expected to be less fierce.

The news may not bode well for Jake Cain, 15, who was watching the snow fall Saturday night with slight ambivalence, but knowing it could help his new business of driveway snow removal in the Susquehana Drive area.

“I wasn’t too happy about it,” Cain said. “I don’t get to ski much and I knew I would have to clean it up.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

— Contact William Ferchland at

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