Winter Continues Into the Sierras

By  | 

Another potent storm caused delays for some mountain travelers Sunday, but left a healthy early-season snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

National Weather Service forecaster Roger Lamoni of Reno said up to 18 inches of snow fell along the crest of the Sierra between Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.

The snow had a very high water content, which is good news for the region's water outlook after three straight dry winters, he said.

"Certainly, we're not placing any bets on the rest of the winter because the outlook is for average precipitation and warmer than normal temperatures," Lamoni said. "But we're off to a good start and let's hope it continues."

Sunday's measurements showed the water content of the Lake Tahoe Basin's snowpack was 110 percent of average for the date.

Chains were still mandatory late Sunday afternoon on two highways linking the Tahoe and Sacramento, Calif., areas: U.S. 50 over Echo Summit and Highway 88 over Carson Pass.

After the snow began to let up earlier in the day, chain controls were lifted on Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, the major link between Reno and northern California.

No major accidents were reported.

But the storm caused at least two brief closures Sunday morning of I-80, said California Highway Patrol dispatcher Shawn Mann in Truckee, Calif.

"It's just your basic Sierra storm that's picking up," he said. "It's going to take people longer to get over the summit."

While some motorists cursed the snow, ski resort operators rejoiced over it. At least three Sierra resorts - Boreal, Mt. Rose and Mammoth Mountain - have opened for the season.

"This storm was a dream come true for all of us in the business," said Boreal spokeswoman Jody Churich. "Conditions are awesome ... We're just totally psyched to come out of the gates this year with a two-foot base."

Heavenly is set to open Nov. 21, with Squaw Valley USA and Kirkwood following the next day. Northstar-at-Tahoe plans to open Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving.

Sunday's water content measured 111 percent of average for the date in the Carson River watershed, 106 percent in the Truckee River basin and only 51 percent in the Walker River watershed.