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Stormy weather to bring in spring

Patrick McCartney

Coaxed into shorts and T-shirts by two weeks of spring-like weather, Tahoe Basin residents will have to break out their galoshes again by Sunday, as spring gives way to a series of El Nino-like storms.

The spring equinox will arrive at 11:55 a.m. Friday, when the sun passes the equator on its return to the northern hemisphere. The spring and fall equinoxes are the only two days of the year when every location on Earth receives an equal amount of daylight and nighttime.

But by Sunday, the first in a series of storms should arrive in the Sierra, heralding the return of El Nino, the periodic warming of ocean waters in the Pacific off South America. California was lashed by storms in January and February, but March has so far been lamb-like.

“It sure looks to me like a very typical El Nino,” said Kelly Redmond, a climatologist with the Desert Research Institute in Stead, Nev., who specializes in the study of El Nino. “It looks similar to what we saw in February, except farther south. It wouldn’t surprise me if it continued for a while, because El Nino is still pretty darned strong.”

National Weather Service forecasters say the first storm in the series, expected by Sunday, will hit central and northern California. As the week progresses, the storms will sag further south.

While the system will pick up some moisture from the tropics, forecasters say it is uncertain what the snow level will be at Lake Tahoe. Chances are that snow will be above lake level, said Teri Egger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

“We’re returning to a strong weather pattern for the next week,” Egger said. “A strong jet stream will bring storms in off the central Pacific.”

Terry Ryan, a National Weather Service forecaster in Reno, said a low-pressure system that formed in the Gulf of Alaska will be followed by a series of lows coming down the coast of Washington. He predicted the snow level at 7,000 feet – pass level in the Tahoe Basin – but said it was too soon to tell for sure.

Before the return of winter-like weather, temperatures should peak in the high 50s at Lake Tahoe Friday, making the first day of spring the warmest day of the year.

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

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