Tahoe digs out from weekend storms | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe digs out from weekend storms

Patrick McCartney

In the fall, it seemed like El Nino would never arrive. Now, it seems like El Nino will never leave. National Weather Service forecasters predict another round of storms will strike California beginning today and continuing into next week.

But it is unclear if the storms will pack a wallop like last weekend, when a foot-and-a-half of powder blanketed Lake Tahoe, with as much as 5 feet falling on the basin’s ski slopes.

“We do see a continuation of a strong (jet stream) flow across the Pacific,” said meteorologist Doug Armstrong. “The little change happening is that a split in the jet is now reforming off the California coast. The split will push one storm to the north, then one to the south in an alternating pattern. That means the storms will be more spaced out, so we’ll have more time between storms to dry out.”

Since Jan. 1, when the Lake Tahoe snowpack was well below average, substantial precipitation has increased the snowpack’s water content to 141 percent of average for the date Monday. Cumulative precipitation for the season still lagged, however, with the Tahoe watershed receiving 104 percent of its average for the date.

The El Nino parade of storms still have skipped the basin at times. Last week, for example, forecasters predicted up to 3 feet of snow to fall at lake level. But, while San Francisco was clobbered by 5 inches of rain, Lake Tahoe was left high and dry.

Saturday’s storm was a better snow-producer, leaving a foot of snow at lake level and several feet at higher elevations. Another 5 inches of snow fell at the Lake Tahoe Airport Sunday night, prompting Mindy Johnke of Oasis Aviation to plead for a dry spell.

“We need a little break,” said Johnke, who a month earlier complained about El Nino’s late arrival.

Despite the weekend snowfall, Lake Tahoe continues to trail California coastal towns, a pattern typical of El Nino years but practically unheard of otherwise.

By Sunday, San Francisco had received more than 33 inches of rain since July 1, while less than 20 inches of precipitation had fallen at Lake Tahoe Airport.

On Monday, the federal government declared 27 of California’s 58 counties disaster areas, qualifying the counties for federal disaster relief. The California Office of Emergency Services released a damage report Monday that estimated last week’s series of storm wreaked between $275 million and $300 million worth of havoc.

Emergency shelters still housed 1,500 residents displaced by flooding in California.

The storm expected to arrive today should bring less than 6 inches of snow at upper elevations, with 1 to 3 inches forecasted for lake level. Another system should arrive by Thursday, and another one by Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

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

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