Winter returns to basin |

Winter returns to basin

Lake Tahoe was hit Monday by something it had not experienced in 1999 – snow.

The white stuff fell on the Tahoe Basin for the better part of the day, leading to backed-up traffic from Echo Summit to the “Y,” causing automobile accidents throughout the basin and allowing ski resort officials to breathe a sigh of relief after nearly a month without snowfall.

Rain fell on lake-level elevations over the weekend, according to Mindy Johnke of Oasis Aviation, and Monday it turned into snow. From 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, about 4 inches fell, Johnke said.

The last time Lake Tahoe received snow was Dec. 31, according to ski resort officials, and then it was only an inch. The last decent-sized snowfall was around Dec. 20.

While it rained at lake level all weekend, snow fell at higher elevations.

Tania Magidson, spokeswoman for Kirkwood Ski Resort, said the Alpine County resort received about 2 feet from Jan. 16 to Monday.

“It’s nice to see,” she said. “It sure gets people more excited to go out and ski when they see snow.”

Molly Cuffe, communications coordinator for Heavenly Ski Resort, said the mountain, which received 10 to 21 inches from the storm, already had good conditions because of its snowmaking operation. But, she said, the snow was nice to see.

“I think the snow will definitely get people pumped up, especially with the World Cup this weekend,” Cuffe said. “We still had pretty good conditions because of snowmaking, but natural snow is definitely an added bonus.”

Not everyone was happy to see the dropping snow.

Jennifer Walker, a Bay Area resident, and numerous other visitors were stuck in traffic Monday trying to get over Echo Summit after spending the weekend at Tahoe.

“It’s going to be a long drive,” she said. “I should have left last night.”

Lake Tahoe law enforcement authorities likely didn’t appreciate the snow either – or at least the traffic accidents it caused.

“We’re really swamped,” Tony Almaraz, public information officer of the Nevada Highway Patrol, said Monday. “We got a lot of emergency calls today.”

One significant accident was on U.S. Highway 50 in Glenbrook when a tractor trailer jackknifed, Almaraz said, backing up traffic for a couple of hours. He said there were no injuries but could not provide further details.

NHP officials could not say how many accidents troopers responded on Monday.

There were six accidents in the Douglas County portion of Lake Tahoe by the middle of the afternoon, and from those a total of six people were injured, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

South Lake Tahoe had only a few accidents and no injuries.

“The storm just started around noon, so it hasn’t been that long,” Sgt. Rick Canale of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, said about 3:30 p.m.

“Once people start driving around more out there, we might see some more problems. So far, we’ve been lucky.”

While the initial storm may have passed, Lake Tahoe residents can expect snow most of the week.

Dan Samelson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service Reno office, said more storms are expected, following each other every 18 to 24 hours for the next few days.

“Essentially, things are going to be unsettled up there at least until Wednesday,” he said. “Thursday and Friday the chance of snow will remain.”

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