Undaunted Stateline rocks on
STATELINE – Floods, torrential rain and snow gave way to a partly starry sky on New Year’s Eve at Stateline in Lake Tahoe as tens of thousands of revelers swarmed Highway 50 to ring in 2006.
A week of unusually inclement weather did not deter about 25,000 people from their migration to the casino corridor, where by day they braved soggy slopes and by night icy roads to join the biggest annual impromptu party at the lake.
“Weather will never slow Tahoe down,” said a smiling Greg Pieratt, 25, at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Harveys Resort and Casino on Saturday night. He and his fiancée, Jenny Dressler, 24, drove from San Diego and met friends from the Bay Area to ring in the New Year at Stateline.
Despite the rain and ice, they said they’ve had a blast snowboarding and then partying at Cabo for the last three nights.
“Everybody knows Tahoe is the place to be on New Year’s,” Dressler said.
Highway 50 was closed to traffic at 9:15 p.m. Casinos boarded up statues and windows, and fenced their entry gardens and fountains to keep revelers off, while security guards checked IDs at every door.
Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said 300 officers from Nevada and California were on hand to keep the peace. In its 30th year, the event is not sponsored or promoted by any casino or chamber of commerce, so the county must foot the bill for extra manpower.
Douglas County spends an extra $5,000 in overtime pay for the night, arresting between 30 and 120 people each New Year for fights, public drunkenness and other minor infractions, he said.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, they are here each year,” Pierini said.
This year’s crowd – most between the ages of 15 and 25 – was less than half of the normal 60,000 to 80,000.
And it was relatively well behaved, Pierini said.
Like last year, weather significantly reduced the usual number of people predicted every year. In turn, the number of arrests and people brought in to Barton Memorial Hospital were down.
Nursing Supervisor Jean Williams reported that only a dozen people were brought in with hypothermic or other related conditions from the holiday revelry. There were no admissions.
“I think people said ‘hurrah,’ got scared and went back inside,” El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bruce Rosa said.
Sixteen were booked into the El Dorado County Jail on a variety of charges including suspicion of being drunk in public, drunken driving, disturbing the peace and vandalism.
South Lake Tahoe police Sgt. Brian Williams also reported 29 people were cited and released on the spot. Serious violations are what law enforcement is mainly concerned with for this event.
“We could see the weather impacted the crowds down there,” Williams said.
In year’s past, climbing lamp posts and snowball fights were not uncommon, but this year, the favorite activity seemed to be running and sliding 15 to 20 feet on the half-inch layer of ice on the highway.
Toward midnight, spattered illegal fire crackers went off while and occasional body could be spotted crowd surfing the screaming mass of people that spanned from Park Avenue in California to Lake Parkway in Nevada.
Pierini guessed flooding on roads in the Carson Valley prevented many from coming. The latest winter storm brought heavy rains, which melted snowpack and brought minor floods throughout Tahoe. In 24 hours, Lake Tahoe raised a half-foot between Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.
-Staff writer Susan Wood contributed to this report.
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