TAHOE NUGGET #268: SQUAW VALLEY
Heavy rain and snow in the past week has not
mitigated the extreme drought conditions in northern California, but it pumped
up Lake Tahoe’s low water levels and gave a much needed boost to Tahoe ski resorts
that had been limping along on life support.
Commonly known as a “Pineapple Express”
storm, the National Weather Service now refers to them as “atmospheric river
events” when describing a subtropical moisture surge from the Pacific Ocean. These
juicy systems can produce phenomenal rainfall totals, often exceeding 20
inches. This one did not, but the 10 to 15 inches that soaked the Sierra west
slope over 4 days raised an important reservoir in Sacramento by 20 feet in a short period of time.
Lake Tahoe’s rise of about 5.5 inches in less than a week is the equivalent of 17.2 billion gallons of water or 53,000 acre-feet. That’s enough water to cover 83 square miles of land to a foot deep, about the size of Seattle, Washington.
Tahoe City picked up more than six inches of
rain while the upper mountain at Squaw Valley was hammered with five to six
feet of new snow. Kirkwood Mountain Resort near South Lake Tahoe was walloped with nearly 9 feet of snow in one week. Avalanche conditions in the backcountry are extreme. The
danger of Truckee River flooding never materialized as snow levels failed to
rise as high as predicted, which kept much of the precipitation as snow above
7,000 to 7,500 feet.
I apologize in advance to my subscribers back
east who probably have no desire to see photographs of ice or snow of any kind.
During this warm storm, snow levels were projected to rise higher than the major passes of Donner (I-80) and Echo (Highway 50) between California and Nevada. Precipitation at Echo Summit (7,382′) turned to rain, but snow and ice persisted on Donner Pass ((7,227′) as seen here on Feb. 8, 2014. Mandatory chain controls were in force for one of the few times this winter so far.
Fresh snow at Squaw Valley finally has the ski area looking like the world class resort that it is.
Ski patrollers keep portions of the mountain closed until all potential slides have been triggered. It is easy to imagine the deadly force that avalanches pose to skiers and snowboarders. Note skiers to the right of debris field.
Due to the heavy, wet nature of the storm and the sheer volume of snow that fell in a short period of time, much of the upper slopes at Squaw Valley were extremely unstable. Note Siberia Express chairlift tower upper right.
Wall of snow hammered trees and overran a groomed area. Note 3-foot avalanche crown below ridgeline.
Note recent dramatic spike in precipitation for the Northern Sierra for this water year so far. We still have along way to go, but snow is predicted for this weekend and it’s looking likely that a potent and cold system will hit next week.
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