Spring snow blankets Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Spring snow blankets Lake Tahoe

Patrick McCartney

Ducking out of a driving snow Monday, Bill Bigham of Stateline accepted blame for the spring storm that dropped 3 inches at Lake Tahoe, forcing the closure of Lake Tahoe Airport and U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit.

“When it was nice a few weeks ago, I took the barbecue out to the patio for the season,” Bigham said. “My wife warned me I shouldn’t do it, but I did anyway.”

As snow continued to fall at noon, Bigham said he was ready for spring weather to return.

“This is a winter that just won’t quit,” said Bigham, a Lake Tahoe resident since 1965.

Yet, there’s nothing unusual about this spring’s weather, say forecasters.

“This is normal weather for this time of the year,” said Rudy Cruz, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Reno. “It’s got nothing to do with El Nino. Most years, we don’t get good weather until June, when we get summer-like weather all at once.”

Monday’s storm dropped up to 2 feet of snow at higher elevations, while the unseasonably cold air lowered snow levels to nearly 2,000 feet. The high temperature Monday at Lake Tahoe Airport was just 31 degrees after a morning low of 24.

The California Department of Transportation imposed chain controls on Highway 50 from just a few miles east of Placerville all the way to Tahoe.

Caltrans closed the highway for more than an hour in the afternoon, while they set hand charges and discharged a propane-powered cannon by remote control to reduce the risk of avalanches.

Snow closed the Lake Tahoe Airport for three hours Monday morning, where 3 inches of snow fell, according to Mindy Johnke of Oasis Aviation.

More than a month of mild temperatures gave many Tahoe residents a false expectation of spring, Johnke added.

“I guess people expect to see grass when they go Easter egg hunting,” she said.

Ten inches of snow has fallen in April at the airport, with a water content of .72 inch. That’s just about average, according to weather observations reported to the Western Regional Climate Center.

Since 1931, Tahoe City has received an average of 15 inches of snow in April, while on the drier side of the basin Glenbrook has averaged 8.82 inches of snow in April since 1948.

But hope for balmy weather is just over the horizon. Tahoe City’s long-term average snowfall drops to 3.76 inches in May and Glenbrook to 2.77 inches.

Even then, however, the basin’s weather is still capable of delivering a spring knockout. Tahoe City has received as much as 33.5 inches of snow in May, and Glenbrook 21 inches. But that’s considerably less than record April snowfalls. Tahoe City was clobbered with 75 inches of snow in April 1958, while Glenbrook was blanketed by 92 inches the same year.

Snow showers are expected to linger in the basin today, but then a high-pressure ridge will clear out the clouds and allow the return of spring-like temperatures. A weak storm may brush the Sierra on Saturday before warmer temperatures arrive again next week.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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