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Tahoe blanketed in powder

Patrick McCartney

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

A foot of powdery snow fell overnight Sunday at Lake Tahoe, as the coldest storm of the season blanketed the basin’s higher peaks with up to 3 and 4 feet of snow.

“It’s beautiful, light, dry fluff,” said Monica Bandows of Heavenly Ski Resort, where the slopes received 2 feet of powder overnight, and nearly 3 feet since Friday.

Area highways remained open during the storm, although chain controls were still in effect over the passes Monday as snow showers continued throughout the day.

Skies are expected to clear today and temperatures gradually rise through the week.

But the arctic storm that barreled into the basin Sunday brought a touch of frigid weather.

“The powder is nice, but it will be bitterly cold,” Tom Cylke, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said on Monday. At mid-morning, the temperature at Squaw Summit was 14 degrees with wind gusting up to 60 mph, greeting skiers with a wind-chill factor of 35 below.

While the storm gave Lake Tahoe its first substantial snow of the season, motorists generally handled the conditions well, according to law enforcement officials.

“The only unique thing is that it was the first major snowstorm of the year,” said Officer Pat Lord of the California Highway Patrol. “Other than that, everything is status quo.”

Heavy snow that arrived about noon on Sunday caught a number of skiers at Heavenly Ski Resort unprepared, said Sgt. Les Scott of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

“The roads to Heavenly were an absolute mess,” Scott said. “People drove up in the morning when it was nice, and then drove down the hill in their street tires after the storm came in.”

While South Tahoe police reported numerous traffic collisions, few were serious.

Lake Tahoe Airport reported a foot of snow overnight, with water equivalent to 1.12 inches. Since Friday, the airport has received 16 inches of snow, and a total of 1.62 inches of precipitation.

Snowfall totals were similar at Tahoe City, where 13 inches of new snow fell overnight, equal to 1.43 inches of precipitation, said John Sutter, a National Weather Service weather observer.

As much as 5 feet of snow fell over the higher peaks since Friday, with an overnight total of 2 to 3 feet reported at many locations, Cylke said. Kirkwood Ski Resort reported 30 to 42 inches overnight, while 20 inches fell at Echo Summit and 24 inches at Donner Summit.

A high-pressure system should keep the basin dry for the week, with the possibility of a weak weather system moving in by Sunday.

Nighttime temperatures will be crisp for the next few nights, with daytime highs reaching comfortable levels.


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