Tahoe winter storm could bring 3 feet to higher elevations, warning issued
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — It’s no longer a question of if it comes, but how it comes. With more El Niño-influenced weather on its way, the Tahoe Basin is once again on track to receive back-to-back weekend storms starting Friday, Jan. 29. Warmer temperatures are expected to keep the snow at higher elevations until late Friday night.
“The jet stream is going to take direct aim at us,” OpenSnow.com Tahoe region forecaster Bryan Allegretto told the Tribune Thursday, describing what forecasters are calling an “atmospheric river” weather pattern coming from the Pacific Ocean.
The storm system may deliver up to three feet of snow at higher elevations along the Sierra Crest through the weekend.
“I think Kirkwood is going to be the big winner here,” Allegretto said. “They’re taller and further south; that should help.”
While the Friday/Saturday storm is expected to impact the entire Tahoe Basin, the system behind it may pass farther south.
Reached for comment regarding the second weather system, Reno-based National Weather Service forecaster Scott McGuire said, “No matter what, I think our confidence is pretty high that Tahoe will be on the northern fringe of it.”
The weather pattern could shift to bring more of the storm to the region, but early forecasts are saying it could pass to the south.
Predictions for Sunday, Jan. 31, are calling for 3-8 inches at lake level.
“It’s going to be highly dependent on how far south that system comes in,” McGuire explained.
“We’re right on that northern edge,” Allegretto said of the second system. “We’ll have to keep an eye on that.”
With Friday’s storm, snow levels are expected to stay at above 8,000 feet during the day before dropping to lake level by early Saturday morning.
“The first system is definitely going to be that classic Sierra-cement type of snow,” McGuire said. “The second system is quite a bit colder.”
Cold temperatures are expected to remain in the region into next week.
“The snow should be a lot lighter on Saturday,” Allegretto said of changing snow density overnight. “It’s going to be thick Friday night.”
Considering conditions, Allegretto suggested that Sunday might be the better ski day.
“The winds will probably still be pretty strong Saturday,” he explained. “Sunday should be much calmer winds and Monday the sun will come out.”
WEATHER SERVICE WARNING ISSUED
Late Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for the entire Tahoe Basin. The warning will go into effect starting at 4 p.m. Friday, and run through 10 a.m. Saturday.
“As the system moves in, conditions are going to deteriorate rapidly,” McGuire said. “People can expect travel impacts throughout the weekend.”
Snow levels will drop rapidly once the cold front behind the initial system arrives.
“[It’s] going to come down pretty quick,” McGuire further explained. “By Saturday morning, (the snow level) should be down to 5,000 feet.”
He said the snow level could continue to drop, reaching Reno by Sunday.
The National Weather Service warning is calling for snow totals between 1-3 feet above 8,000 feet of elevation. Areas between 7,000 and 8,000 feet can expect 6-12 inches. Forecasters are predicting 4-8 inches below 7,000 feet.
The National Weather Service also issued a Wind Advisory for Friday between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. Forecasters are calling for winds between 20 and 30 mph with gusts up to 55 mph. Higher elevations could see gusts near 100 mph along mountain ridges.
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