Not all are celebrating snowfall in Lake Tahoe |

Not all are celebrating snowfall in Lake Tahoe

Teri Vance
Appeal Staff Writer

As the wet, heavy rain turned to flakes of snow Thursday, skiers, snowboarders and small-business owners rejoiced.

But others cringed.

For weeks, residents and recreationalists have prayed, and even danced, for snow to fall, but the precipitation that opens the slopes and boosts the economy also means construction slows on homes burned in the Angora fire.

Chris Sennings was out with two friends in the rain Thursday morning covering the materials around the construction site of his home on Mule Deer Circle.

“It’ll warp if it get wet then dries out,” his friend Erik Christenson explained.

Sennings’ home burned in the Angora fire that destroyed more than 250 other houses and charred 3,100 acres in South Lake Tahoe in late June.

His insurance didn’t cover all of the reconstruction costs so he enlisted the help of friends and their contractors to rebuild.

“We got held up by the foundation a little bit. We got held up by the framing a little bit. Then we got held up by the (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) a little bit and by the county a little bit,” Sennings explained. “We were supposed to do the framing today (Thursday). I wish (the snow) would have held up a little bit.”

His friend Geoff Bettini said he feels for Sennings and others who lost their homes in the fire, but was relieved when the storm rolled in.

A lifelong South Lake Tahoe resident, Bettini’s father has owned and operated the Pyramid Beach Ski Rental shop on Ski Run Boulevard for 30 years.

This year, Bettini is taking over operation of the store.

“I’m sympathetic to these guys, but we need the snow for the economy,” he said. “It’s killing the local shops. We’re just not getting the business we need.”

He said Thanksgiving weekend traditionally marks the first snowfall and the kick-off of ski season, which boosts his business.

“This year it’s been very difficult,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s been difficult for me, too,” Sennings retorted wryly, gesturing to the foundation that was once his home.

More than 50 homes are currently being reconstructed, according to the South Lake Tahoe Building Department.

Debbie Brown, a development technician, said most of the homeowners who’ve applied for permits have already laid their foundations and that’s what matters.

Those who apply now will have to wait until spring to do any grading or digging to lay foundations. However, she said, some are still applying for permits now to avoid the extra cost associated with the new fire code that goes into effect Jan. 1.

Although construction will move more slowly, it won’t cease.

Brothers James and Justin Lewallen of Gardnerville continued work on a Mount Olympia Circle home as the rain fell.

“We work ’til we can’t,” Justin said.

“It all depends on how we feel,” James added.

The snow, they said, would be a welcome relief to the rain that sopped their clothes, making them heavy.

A crew from Dalton Construction Company also continued working.

Sayers Tanner said they would probably leave early, but he’d need to clean up all the materials first, following regulations set forth by the TRPA.

A native South Lake Tahoe resident, his home on Dixie Mountain Drive survived. But his father-in-law’s home didn’t.

He said they’ll continue to work in the snow, “but it slows down everything.”