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Taste of winter interrupts spring/run with weather shot of accident

Patrick McCartney

Lake Tahoe’s traditional Memorial Day snowstorm arrived two weeks early this Tuesday, briefly creating a blizzard-like condition that was responsible for an eight-car accident on Pioneer Trail.

National Weather Service forecasters predicted snow showers Tuesday night, with showers expected off and on until the weekend as another front passes through the area.

“It looks like we’ll be staying moist and unstable following the trough,” said Mark Brown, of the National Weather Service regional forecast center in Reno. After a break during the weekend, another cool system may bring more unsettled weather early next week.

Lake Tahoe receives an average of 3 inches of snow in May.

By noon, thick, blowing snow reduced visibility to just a few hundred yards, and blanketed the basin with several inches of slush.

Meteorologists were reluctant to blame the late-season storm on El Nino, the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that affects global weather patterns. But rainfall this past week added to already robust season totals, breaking 100-year-old precipitation records in some California locations.

Typical of some El Nino years, however, many of the season’s storms pounded the coast of California harder than the Sierra Nevada. As San Francisco approached the wettest winter since the start of record-keeping in 1849, Tahoe season totals were only modestly above average.

By Tuesday, the season total at Lake Tahoe Airport was 33.67 inches of precipitation, including 179 inches of snow. At Incline Village, the season’s total was 24.67 inches of precipitation, barely above average.

At the National Weather Service, Brown could not say how strong the next few fronts expected to pass through the basin will be.

“The models are good at predicting when an event will occur, but are not good at forecasting the strength this time of year,” Brown said.

But Tuesday’s cool, fast-moving front packed some punch, he added.

“It was a pretty good band that came rolling through here,” he said.

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

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