Waiting for the next one | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Waiting for the next one

The South Shore got a brief reprieve Wednesday from the powerful series of storms that dumped at least three feet at lake level and paralyzed transportation and businesses throughout the region. While road and power officials say they’re pleased to get through this storm, the storm expected to hit today may bring more headaches to the region.

Power still out for 1,150 customers

Sierra Pacific has restored much of the power lost in the South Shore area. On Wednesday, 1,150 customers were still without service, mainly in the Sierra Tract and Tahoe Keys and portions of Zephyr Cove on the Nevada side.

The problem now is getting to smaller outages that affect one or two homes, said Sierra Pacific spokesman Karl Walquist.

About 600 of the homes without power are in areas considered “scattered” by power crews. This means that power for their home comes from a line that has been disrupted rather than an entire circuit being out, Walquist said.

Full restoration in scattered areas is expected by Friday.

Priority areas are selected based on how widespread the problem is. If, for example, a neighborhood of 1,000 homes is without power because of a downed main power line, Sierra Pacific will try to repair those lines first. The smaller the outage, the smaller the priority, Walquist said.

Sierra Pacific is still asking for voluntary power conservation among South Shore customers. Customers are urged to not run Christmas lights and avoid using large amounts of power — such as using washing machines and dishwashers — from 5 to 9 p.m.

Temporary shelter at city recreation center

Because of the power outages, a temporary shelter has been established at the city’s recreation center. All South Shore residents are welcome to stay at the shelter if their power is out, said recreation supervisor Judy Crawford.

With a second series of storms threatening to be here this weekend, the shelter will stay open as long as there is a need, Crawford said. Food and cots are provided. The center is located at 1180 Rufus Allen Blvd., in South Lake Tahoe. It is open to all South Shore residents.

Cable service depends on power

With power being restored, many South Shore residents will find their cable television is functioning. Charter Communication reports a few outages and has crews working on them.

“We’ve had power-related problems that have led to outages, but for the most part we have been able to keep the dishes cleaned and the cable going,” spokeswoman Marsha Berkbigler said.

There are about 13,500 customers from Zephyr Cove to Meyers. Among those customers, a few hundred may experience outages even though there’s power. The reason, Berkbigler explained, is that when power is lost and then restored, cable power boxes need to be reset.

The cable company is working closely with Sierra Pacific to find out where the power is down so crews can get to the cable nodes without much delay, she said.

Mail service, garbage pickup resumes

Although there’s been delays, mail service should resume to full operation beginning today, said Terry Brown, customer services supervisor for the main branch of the South Lake Tahoe Post Office.

All mail service is up and running on time for Stateline and Zephyr Cove customers as well after power outages forced the post offices to shut down Monday.

Neither Nevada post office offers street delivery. However, street delivery resumed for businesses on Wednesday in South Lake Tahoe, with home delivery starting today, Brown said.

People who get their mail delivered at home should clear the area around the box so carriers can deliver the mail.

“I know it’s tough right now. A lot of the homes are buried in with berms,” Brown said.

If homeowners can’t get to their mailboxes, they can call the post office and ask for a snow hold. The telephone number is (530) 544-2590.

Garbage trucks were seen throughout the South Shore Wednesday, picking up loads they may have missed because of the storm. Because calls to South Tahoe Refuse were unanswered, it is unknown when garbage will be picked up at specific locations.

Caltrans hauls snow away

Chains or snow tires are required along Highway 50 from Stateline to El Dorado Hills. Kingsbury Grade has no controls. Caltrans and Nevada Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday’s break from the storm allowed them to prepare for the next series of storms. Call the agencies for updates on road conditions before heading over passes.

LTUSD closes for remainder of week

On Wednesday, the Lake Tahoe Unified School District decided to close its seven sites for today and Friday, adding a week to the traditional two-week holiday. Road conditions, downed trees and incoming weather were enough for Steve Morales, transportation supervisor for the district, to make the recommendation to close schools.

“Our sites are in reasonably good shape right now but our concern is truly the amount of snow on the roadways around the community,” Morales said.

Snapped power lines in the Tahoe Keys contributed to Tahoe Valley Elementary School being the only school without power Wednesday, but officials were working on saving the food stored there.

Unfortunately, all holiday presentations were canceled, said Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn.

“We appreciate all the hard work done by the city and county and all our maintenance people to get the snow cleared, but we hope we have the understanding of our parents that we’re closing our schools on the side of safety,” Scheerhorn said.

The district instituted three snow days in its schedule, which lists the last day of school on June 20. It is not known whether the two additional snow days for this week will be added to the end of the school year.

The three Douglas County schools at the lake also remained closed Wednesday. Despite the sites being cleared of snow and a plan to run a main bus schedule Tuesday and Wednesday, power outages swayed Rich Alexander, assistant superintendent for human resources, to advise closing the sites.

Power was restored by Wednesday and the outlook was to open Zephyr Cove Elementary, Kingsbury Middle School and Whittell High School for today.

“That’s our plan but I’ve lived in Tahoe long enough that we’ll be making the decision at 5:45 (this) morning. But right now we’re not seeing anything that prevents us from opening schools,” Alexander said.

Gas stations fueled for the next storm

Conditions were not severe enough to deter supplies of gasoline to South Shore. Meyer’s Shell and Food Mart had a truck arrive with 6,000 gallons of regular gasoline Tuesday, with 2,500 gallons sold that day. The weekday average is about 1,500 gallons, said Debbie Iacopucci, bookkeeper for the station.

“We were fairly busy, especially when the power went out (Tuesday) at the ‘Y,'” Iacopucci said. “We did have a lot of people heading out to the ski areas.”

Hats, gloves, chains, coffee, hot chocolate and hot dogs were some of the items people were buying during the storm.

“Whenever it’s snowing, we really seem to go through our fast food,” Iacopucci said.

After the roughly five-hour power outage that started about 8 a.m. Tuesday, Beacon Gas Station still sold an estimated 3,500 gallons of gas to people filling up vehicles, snowblowers and cans.

Natural gas companies report no problems

Avista Utilities and Southwest Gas Corp. reported no problems with service. Avista serves about 18,400 residential and commercial customers on the California side.

Southwest was hampered slightly when a Monday power outage shut down its Truckee office, said spokesman Roger Buehrer.

Snow plows battle the elements

The county battled the snow with seven graders on 150 miles, or 300 if you count the plows making two passes on the same road, said Tom Halvorson, highway supervisor for El Dorado County. On Wednesday night the county put the graders to use to widen the roads.

Twenty-four people plowed the streets of South Lake Tahoe. Wednesday’s goal was to also widen the streets with rotaries in the subdivisions.

“It was quite a bit of snow in one fitting,” street superintendent Scott Rogers said. “We’re also dealing with probably, oh, anywhere from 60 to 70 trees that have come down in neighborhood streets.”

Rogers asked residents to remove the trees so the city’s machinery won’t get damaged. He also asked for understanding in the never-ending berm issue.

“There was a lot of berm complaints out there and unfortunately when you get four to five feet of snow out there, we do what we can,, but our main focus to keep streets open and we do the best we can for the driveways, but it comes secondary.”

— Jeff Munson can be reached at jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com. William Ferchland can be reached at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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