Storm triggers winter warning |

Storm triggers winter warning

A major winter storm is expected to drop up to 4 feet of snow over higher elevations in the Tahoe Basin before diminishing to scattered showers tonight.

Wet snow fell steadily at Lake Tahoe Monday, before turning to rain as a warm system approached late in the day. The snow level should descend to the lake again by this morning, with additional accumulations of up to a foot in South Lake Tahoe, before skies clear again on Wednesday.

While the snow level will fluctuate between Lake Tahoe and highway passes out of the basin, ski resorts should be buried by substantial snowfall, said Doug Armstrong, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service regional office in Reno.

“Ski resorts like Kirkwood will have enough snow to last the rest of the season. There won’t be any more crying for more snow,” Armstrong said. “In the next 72 hours, we will probably exceed what we had all last February. We’re off to a good start.”

After a fairly dry fall, the Lake Tahoe Airport received 8.8 inches of precipitation in January, including 49 inches of snow. While substantial, January’s precipitation was barely half as much as last year, when Lake Tahoe received 16.65 inches, most of it falling as a driving rain that caused landslides in the American River Canyon that closed U.S. Highway 50 twice for extended periods.

While December-January precipitation at Lake Tahoe set a modern record (34.71 inches at Lake Tahoe Airport), California dried out for the rest of the wet season. Lake Tahoe received more precipitation in January last year than the total for the 11 months that followed.

Motorists were coping with Monday’s sloppy conditions with few problems, said Officer Pat Lord of the California Highway Patrol. Chain controls were in effect over all mountain passes throughout the day.

“Now we’re going to have puddles everywhere,” Lord said Monday afternoon, after a steady snow had turned to rain. “Hopefully, there won’t be the flooding like last year that closed Highway 50.”

The National Weather Service predicted 1 to 3 feet of snow overnight above 7,000 feet, with another foot expected to fall today. As much as 12 to 18 inches is forecast at lake level.

Local blizzard conditions are likely in exposed areas, and local flooding is possible at lower elevations.

The storm should produce snow showers tonight, with scattered snow showers lingering into Wednesday.

Armstrong said the major storm is being pushed by a cold jet stream stretching across the Pacific from Siberia.

“It’s really doing a number, no question about it,” Armstrong said of the season’s strongest storm.

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