Sierra snow dump continues |

Sierra snow dump continues

Susan Wood
Nevada Appeal News Service

Winter continued to roar over the Sierra Nevada on Monday, creating treacherous driving conditions and putting a considerable-to-high avalanche warning in effect for backcountry travelers.

The National Weather Service expects the brunt of the storm to pass over Carson City by this morning, and expected it to leave about 6 inches of snow on the valley floor.

“It will still be snowing off and on today, but not as intense as before,” said Meteorologist Shane Snyder. “We will be hit-or- miss with precipitation in Reno and Carson, but it will keep snowing pretty consistently in the foothills.”

A winter-storm warning was in effect from 4 p.m. Monday to 4 a.m. today for most of the Sierra, from Verdi to Gardnerville.

The one change the NWS is seeing is lower wind speeds, which may help Nevada Highway Patrol troopers battling white-out conditions in Washoe Valley.

The NHP was anticipating delays or closure on both directions of Highway 395 Monday evening because of low visibility. The highway was closed for most of Sunday night for the same reason, according to Trooper Chuck Allen.

Yet the majority of the storm’s impact will be above 5,000 feet, with up to 5 feet of new snow expected at ski resorts and up to 3 feet in the Tahoe Basin.

The strong winds Monday shut down eight lifts at Heavenly Mountain Resort and a shuttle bus route, but the snow added another foot to the five already collected for skiers and boarders on the slopes, the ski area reported.

Snow means big business to Lake Tahoe.

“The volume has increased on the phones,” South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association President Jerry Bindel said. And with Easter scheduled early and a late season, March and April are shaping up for the crowds to hit the slopes.

The human effect of the storm included resort visitors fleeing the area in their vehicles to escape the storm wrath and chain controls, residents shoveling feverishly and the blushed faces of area youth beaming with smiles.

Monday was the Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s first snow day of the season.

The high wind has contributed to high avalanche danger in the backcountry on slopes of 32 degrees and steeper above the tree line, the Sierra Avalanche Center reported Monday. This means human-triggered avalanches are likely between Yuba and Sonora passes. Below the tree line, the hazard lowered to moderate to considerable.

On the roads, city and El Dorado County street superintendents Scott Rogers and Tom Halverson, respectively, were out in full force to keep up on clearing the roads amid a continuous storm system.

Caltrans has brought up 10 staffers from the Sacramento area. The state transportation area warned motorists of on-and-off delays on Highway 50 due to avalanche controls. Monday marked another day of chain controls on the major thoroughfare and Highway 89. The route was closed at D.L. Bliss State Park because of the avalanche hazard.

Despite the boon of snow, the Central Sierra remains at 55 percent of average, according to snow sensors read by the California Department of Water Resources on Monday.

“These kinds of storms should be having an impact and clearly it’s been quite a boost. But we didn’t have a wet fall, and we were in such a deep hole to begin with,” state hydrologist Frank Gehrke said.

But more is yet to come. A winter storm warning went into effect Monday night into today, the National Weather Service reported. The storm was estimated to bring another 6 to 10 inches at lake level and 1 to 2 feet above 7,000 feet by tonight. The storm series is predicted to taper off Wednesday.

“There’s a pretty good jet stream over us,” meteorologist Rudy Cruz said.

• Nevada Appeal reporter Jarid Shipley contributed to this story.

Winter’s here

• A winter storm warning is in effect for the Sierra Nevada through this evening, with 6- to 10 inches of snow expected at lake level and 1- to 2 feet above 7,000 feet.

• Avalanche danger: High on slopes 32 degrees or steeper above the tree line.

• Wind gusts of up to 115 mph on the ridgetops.

• Snowpack remains at 55 percent of average for the Sierra Nevada.

• Did anyone say March yet? The Miracle March of 1991 produced 74 inches of snowpack.

– Sources: National Weather Service, Western Regional Climate Center and the California Department of Water Resources