Storm closes Tahoe ski resorts, schools, causes flooding issues; More rain, snow on way

Dozens of people fill up sandbags Thursday while firefighters clear the roof at a South Lake Tahoe fire station.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The winter storm pounding the Lake Tahoe Basin with rain and snow has closed schools, ski resorts, caused travel disruptions and flooding and brought down a couple of structures due to heavy snow load.

Home and business owners have been stressed about snow loads and scrambled Thursday to remove as much snow as possible before the multi-day atmospheric river event that is expected to drop an abundance of rain and high elevation snow.

Heavenly and Kirkwood mountain resorts both announced that they will be closed on Friday.

“Both the city of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County have declared a State of Emergency and we want to do our part and support our community during this emergency situation,” Heavenly said in a social media post. “We expect major challenges as a result of inbound precipitation, both at our resort and across the Tahoe region, so we are making this decision proactively out of an abundance of caution for our employees and guests.”

Heavenly went on to say its team will be assessing conditions day-to-day and expect recovery from the storm to “take a bit of time.”

Palisades Tahoe is also closed due to avalanche danger and flooding on Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows roads.

“Currently it is raining up to 8,500 feet and winds on our ridgeline have just hit 139 mph,” the resort said in a social media post.

Stateline casinos are offering deals to local residents who are worried their homes may not be safe. Harrah’s and Harveys Lake Tahoe have discounted room rates for $59 a night with no resort fees. Those interested should go to the front desk and present identification.

Harveys Convention Center is also open as a warming room with power available, free of charge, for those in need.

Many residents were also loading up sandbags Thursday at the Tahoe Valley South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue station and also through Tahoe Douglas Fire at Kahle Community Center at the outside basketball court, marked by an orange cone.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District closed all schools on Friday due to weather and flooding on some campuses.

The National Weather Service has a winter storm warning and flood advisory in effect through 11 a.m. Sunday for strong winds, heavy, high elevation snow and soaking rain.

Wind gusts ranging from 65-75 mph are expected and will likely exceed 100 mph on Sierra ridges. The strong winds have led to a restriction of vehicles over 9 feet tall on U.S. Highway 395 in Washoe Valley.

The moisture with this system is massive with an 80% chance of 4-7 inches of liquid and the other 20% leaning toward 7-8 inches for the Tahoe Basin.

Snow levels will remain high on Friday, about 8,000-8,500 feet, and will come crashing down later in the morning, the service said.

Additional snow accumulations for this storm through Thursday night for Tahoe has a 90% chance for 6-18 inches of snow in the 5,500-7,000 foot range and 30-48 inches above 7,000 feet.

The service said more snow is expected Saturday through Sunday night, including 2-4 feet in the Tahoe Basin above 6,000 feet.

An avalanche warning has been issued by the Sierra Avalanche Center through Saturday morning and could extend into Sunday morning. The warning says substantial rain on snow, and high intensity snowfall above the rain/snow line will lead to widespread avalanche activity.

Beyond the weekend, another atmospheric river is poised to impact the region Monday through Wednesday.

“Model guidance continues to show another dynamic, warm, and wet atmospheric river affecting the region Monday through Wednesday,” the service said. “There will not be much of a break in the heavy, wet precipitation in the Sierra between the current system and the next.”

The service is seeing snow levels on Monday start at 7,000 feet through Tuesday afternoon before crashing to about 4,500 feet Wednesday morning.

“If this comes to fruition, most of the heaviest snow will be limited to areas above 6,500 feet across northeast California and the Sierra, with current projections of 2-4 feet above 7,000 feet with the higher peaks of the Sierra seeing as much as 5 feet. Prepare for travel impacts and delays over Sierra passes early next week.”

For road conditions, call 511 or visit or

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