Wind gusts reach 209 mph at Kirkwood; could be a record

A graph of Kirkwood Mountain Resort wind speeds. The  MPH is on the left.
A graph of Kirkwood Mountain Resort wind speeds. The MPH is on the left.(KOLO)
Published: Feb. 9, 2020 at 11:30 AM PST
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Wind gusts reached 209 mph Sunday morning at Kirkwood Mountain Resort south of Lake Tahoe, the U.S. National Weather Service reported. If verified, that would be a record wind gust for California.

Continuous wind speed reached 168 mph at Kirkwood at same time, at 7:45 a.m.

Kirkwood shut down its skiing operations for the day.

"Kirkwood is closed today due to strong and increasing winds in order to ensure guest and employee safety," Kirkwood spokesman Russ Carlton said in an emailed statement. "As you may have seen, these wind conditions aren’t exclusive to Kirkwood. As always, our mountain operations team will evaluate conditions tomorrow morning to make a determination to open."

Carlton did not address any damage caused by wind.

Ward Peak at Alpine Meadows had gusts of 125 mph at 8:30 a.m. As of 10:45 a.m., Alpine Meadows reported nine lifts on hold and three lifts open. Squaw Valley reported six lifts on hold and five lifts open.

The Truckee Police Department reported power lines down in the Tahoe Donner subdivision and some road closures.

The National Weather reported high waves crashing onto the docks at Homewood in north Lake Tahoe.

“Stay safe and leave the lake alone today!” the weather service said in a tweet.

Despite some extremes, it’s not a windpocalype in the Lake Tahoe area. Some ridgetops had extreme winds, weather service meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf said, “otherwise it’s a brisk, blustery day.”

The winds of earlier on Sunday won’t return, but the High Sierra should have high winds into Monday morning, he said.

What’s causing the freakish winds? Deutschendorf this system is bringing strong winds from the northeast, the opposite of the typical systems that move over the Sierra. The backside of the system was especially strong. The strongest winds have generally been on the west side of the Sierra on Sunday morning. There could be some phenomena among the terrain in the Kirkwood area that funneled the wind into the area with the weather sensor, he said.

Verifying the California record for the wind gust typically takes months. The prior record of 199 mph was set Feb. 20, 2017, at Alpine Meadows’ Ward Peak and it wasn’t verified until Dec. 7, 2017, Deutschendorf said.

Also on Sunday, there was a wind gust of 937 mph recorded at Peavine. Deutschendorf called that an “obvious glitch” and said all the wind speeds around Peavine were about 40 mph.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020