Spring has sprung and its seed is snow
March 21, 2006
The two days of spring did not look much different than the 20 days of winter March weather preceding it. Lake Tahoe Basin residents woke up Monday and Tuesday morning to snow showers that dusted snow banks and berms with an additional 2 to 3 inches of fluff.
That fluff comes on top of some 60 inches of snow that has fallen at lake level in many areas around the basin since March 1.
Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort and Kirkwood Mountain Resort report anywhere from 4 to 12 inches of snow in the past 48 hours to add to their already large bases, gained mostly this month.
Diamond Peak reported more than 5 feet of accumulation since the beginning of the month. At ski resorts higher up, boarders and skiers have been carving turns through even greater rifts of power. On Monday Squaw Valley reported 13.5 feet of accumulation at 8,200 feet since March 1 while Alpine Meadows reported a solid 14 feet of accumulation at 6,900 feet.
The snow, in addition to wowing ski bums and forecasters alike, has slowed down what in February looked to be an early spring.
Jerry Owens, a resource conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, said those eager for some sign of warmer weather might study shrubs such as willows and deciduous trees homeowners have planted on their properties.
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“If you go over to the shrubs on your property, you might start seeing little buds start to swell and get bigger and (it is) the same for deciduous trees,” Owens said.
Owens said he does not expect to see much activity on the ground until most of the snow is gone and the soil has had a chance to warm up.
“It is all dependent on temperatures,” he said. “Even if the snow is gone, if the ground stays frozen nothing much is going to happen – but if you get some warm days, then you are going to see some activity taking place.”
Gary Murphy, an avalanche forecaster at Alpine Meadows who has been patrolling the slopes for 36 years, said March is already the seventh largest month for snowfall at Alpine since 1970.
The deluge has left the snow pack in that area at nearly 140 percent of normal. With 114 inches of snow on the ground at 6,900 feet, Murphy said he doesn’t expect to be seeing bare soil anytime soon.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Murphy said. “This month has definitely been kind of unusual for the Sierra.”