Storm raises water content
Although snowfall in the Lake Tahoe Basin over the last few weeks has edged the water content of the snowpack upward, it’s too late to expect a normal year.
The snowpack as of midday Monday stood at 69 percent of average for the basin, up 4 percent from Friday’s 65 percent.
National Weather Service Hydrologist Gary Barbato figured it would take a half inch of precipitation or 6 inches of snowfall every day through the end of March to pull off a normal year.
“It’s going to be hard to make up the snowpack this season,” Barbato said. “If we had a miracle March, it might get up to nearly normal. That’s the best we can hope for.”
The 1991 snowy windfall turned out to be the second wettest March ever, with 12.9 inches of precipitation, Barbato recalled. The wettest came four years later with 19.5 inches in that one month.
Up through February 1991, hydrologists were using the “D” word to characterize the feast-or-famine season. Precipitation amounts remained at 4.6 inches until March 1 of that year.
Between October and February, normal precipitation for Lake Tahoe ranges from 8.2 inches to 45 inches, with the south side of the lake perpetually drier, Barbato said.
It has been perpetually warmer in the last few days too.
“That’s how we end up with the Sierra cement,” Barbato said, referring to the heavy snow.
The lake received from 3 to 6 inches on the South Shore, according to the weather service. Tahoe City reported 14 to 17 inches.
At the lake’s ski areas, Northstar-at-Tahoe has accumulated about a foot from Sunday evening to Monday afternoon. Squaw Valley added about 8 inches to its 70- to 120-inch snowbase, and with that, cannon blasts for avalanche controls at the ski area that Monday.
The new snowfall brought a high-to-considerable avalanche hazard to the basin, also prompting blasts for avalanche controls from the California Department of Transportation on U.S. Highway 50 at Echo Summit. State Route 89 at Emerald Bay was also closed due to the danger.
There was also a hint of danger behind the wheel on Monday, as one driver of a gray Astro Van discovered as he headed eastbound on Highway 50 just before 8 a.m. and skidded into a wooden fence that lines the sidewalk.
The unidentified male driver was not injured. But the single-car collision west of Fremont Avenue, which tied up traffic for 40 minutes on the major thoroughfare, represented one of two accidents in which property damage occurred, the Nevada Highway Patrol reported.
“People are slipping and sliding, but there have been only a few minor accidents,” California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Gualtney said.
Chains or snow tires were required on Highway 50 between Twin Bridges and Meyers, on Highway 88 at the Carson Spur area, on Highway 89 in Truckee and on Nevada Route 431 over the Mount Rose Summit.
The storm that brought a snow advisory to the region before driving the thrust of the energy south leaves a 30 percent chance of rain below 6,500 feet and snow above that elevation with warmer temperatures for today.
Wednesday calls for partly cloudy skies. A chance of precipitation may return by Thursday.
– Staff Writer Gregory Crofton contributed to this report.
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