Winter weather returns |

Winter weather returns

Jeff Munson

Sunny skies and warm weather will end later today as a winter storm is expected to blow into the Sierra through Wednesday, dumping at least a foot of snow above 7,000 feet and 6 inches at lake level.

The system will likely arrive in the form of rain but temperatures will fall, turning it to snow by late afternoon, said Brian Brong, forecaster for the Reno-based National Weather Service.

“It is moving straight across the Pacific, so it doesn’t have the tropical moisture like the New Year’s storm,” Brong said. “We’re expecting snow levels to drop by Wednesday morning to 5,000 feet. It is still questionable how low the snow will go on the valley floor.”

A rain-and-snow mix is possible in Reno and Carson Valley, he added.

Today’s expected storm comes on the heels of another that brought high winds, rain and heavy snow to the Sierra during the New Year’s holiday. That storm snapped power lines and trees and caused flooding in the Lake Tahoe Basin and in Reno, Carson City and Carson Valley.

The expected storm comes after several days with temperatures in the upper 40s. Ski areas have reported heavy crowds on the slopes following the storms, and hope the pattern will continue with this upcoming three-day, Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly report great snow conditions. Kirkwood has a snow depth range of between 88 and 166 inches, Heavenly reports 90 to 122 inches, and Sierra has 49 to 120 inches.

The storm should blow out of the region by Thursday, followed by a warming trend that could last through the weekend. Forecasters are watching a storm out of the Gulf of Alaska that could translate into low temperatures and some snow on Saturday. However, the latest weather models taken on Monday show the storm may not reach Tahoe.

“As it stands now, it looks like there’s a better chance of precipitation along the Oregon and Northern California coasts,” Brong said.

Resorts are gearing up for the weekend, considered among the busiest for resorts after the Christmas holiday. Sierra-at-Tahoe will have a band playing through the weekend along with family games, said spokeswoman Nicole Klay. Heavenly will be hosting the National Brotherhood of Skiers, a group of more than 500 African-American men and women who will ski at the resort for four days.

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