Sierra Storm

A winter storm brought much-needed snow Thursday to the Sierra, and more snow was on the way.

Chains are mandatory on two major highways linking Sacramento and the Lake Tahoe area: Interstate 80 over Donner Summit and U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit. To the south, Highway 88 over Carson
Pass was closed due to avalanche control efforts.

The storm dropped 4 to 8 inches of snow on the Lake Tahoe area on Thursday morning, and was expected to bring another 16 inches of
snow above 7,000 feet by Friday morning.

"We are getting pounded," said Mike Pierce, spokesman at the Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe resort above Lake Tahoe's northeast shore. "It's always fantastic to receive feet of fresh powder with many weeks still left in the ski season."

The snow level was to drop later Thursday to valley floors along the eastern Sierra, where 2 inches of snow was possible.

Water officials were encouraged by National Weather Service forecasts calling for a chance of snow every day through Wednesday.

The Sierra snowpack has been dismal this season - its water content averaging on Feb. 1 only 43 percent of normal for the date over the 400-mile-long mountain range.

As of Thursday morning, the figure stood at 38 percent of normal in the Lake Tahoe Basin, 49 percent in the Truckee River watershed, 42 percent in the Carson River basin and 41 percent in the Walker River watershed, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The latest snowfall followed a string of storms that dropped up to 3 feet of snow over a period of several days ending Feb. 11.

The recent snowfall has caused Lake Tahoe ski resort operators to rejoice after relying on machine-made snow for much of the season.

"When it comes down heavy like this, it creates a buzz," said Kym Fabel, program manager of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Information Center.

In California, chains or snow tires also were required on Route 267 between Truckee and Kings Beach and on Highway 89 on Lake Tahoe's west shore.

Similar controls were in effect on a portion of U.S. Highway 395 north of Bridgeport, Calif.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)