Tahoe white stuff expected ahead of schedule

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The first winter storm of the season blew into the Sierra Sunday night, bringing heavy winds and snow above the 7,000-foot level.

The bulk of the storm happened overnight, with a few lingering snow showers expected this morning, said Wendell Hohmann, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Reno.

As of press time, the storm was expected to dump between 6 to 12 inches of snow above 7,000 feet and 2 to 5 inches below, possibly reaching the upper valleys in northwestern Nevada by Monday night. A winter-storm warning was posted Sunday morning.

Another storm of the same magnitude is expected to hit the Sierra again Tuesday, bringing 6 to 12 inches above 7,000 feet, with snow at lake level by Tuesday afternoon and evening.

"What we have is a lot of cold air that is digging down into the east Pacific, a large trough of low pressure, which is dropping the temperatures," Hohmann said.

The early arrival of the storm as rain was welcome news firefighters still battling the Fred and Power fires east of Lake Tahoe.

With steady rain on Sunday, full containment of the Fred fire should have been reached by Sunday night, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Shirley Butticci.

"The rain certainly helped. We're now downsizing our personnel," she said.

Officials monitoring both fires say the storms could bring flooding and mudslide problems with them, as burned debris lines many of the watersheds.

The early snow is welcome news for Lake Tahoe ski areas, which are hoping for significant snowfall this season.

"We've had a very dry summer so this comes as great news," said Sean Sweeney, Sierra-at-Tahoe's director of guest services. "Any time we can get some early precipitation, it helps people get motivated for the season."

Spokespersons for Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Heavenly Mountain Resort were unavailable for comment.

Forecasters are calling for a weak to moderate El Niño, which causes the ocean temperature to rise, which affects the jet stream.


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