RENO, Nev. (AP) — A second, much stronger winter storm packing heavy snow is headed for the Sierra this weekend after a cold front dropped a half-foot (15 centimeters) at Lake Tahoe ski resorts and a couple inches (5 cm) fell early Wednesday in the valleys around Reno.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch effective from Saturday evening through Tuesday evening for Lake Tahoe and areas to the north. Several feet of snow is possible with winds up to 100 mph (160 kph) over mountain ridges.
One to 3 feet (30 to 90 cm) of snow is forecast around Tahoe, with up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) possible above elevations of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters), the weather service said Wednesday.
“Travel could be very difficult to impossible due to heavy snow and whiteout conditions. Very strong winds could cause tree damage,” the service said.
The new front likely to bring the coldest temperatures so far this season should begin to arrive in the Sierra Thursday night into Friday, with overnight lows dropping into the teens and single digits.
On Wednesday, as much as 8 inches (20 cm) of new snow fell in the south-central Sierra at Mammoth Mountain ski resort south of Yosemite National Park.
At Lake Tahoe, up to 6 inches (15 cm) of snow was reported at Homewood Mountain, Palisades Tahoe and Mount Rose on the southwest edge of Reno, with 5 inches (13 cm) at Heavenly on Tahoe’s south shore and 3 inches (8 cm) at Incline Village on the north shore. About an inch (2.5 cm) was reported in Sun Valley on the north edge of Reno and a half-inch (1 cm) in Carson City.
The amount of snow California has received lately hasn’t helped pull Californians out of a drought, so how many storms would it take?
“We do a lot of different projects, anything you can imagine really if it has to do with snow,” Andrew Schwartz, with the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, said.
Schwartz is an atmospheric scientist, and like any scientist, he uses the tools at his disposal to collect data, snow-related data in his case.
“So, this fence over here has a bunch of different sensors on it at various levels … Those are called thermistors, and they measure the temperature at each individual level. And those are going to be sitting in the snowpack at some point during the winter,” Schwartz said.
He said the amount of snow California would need this season to help end the drought has only occurred four times in the last four or so decades.
“We have a little bit of a snowpack here. We are hoping for a lot more next week but we are going to need several consecutive storms that are quite large, maybe even a couple per month like that through the spring. In all reality, we don’t have the ability to have a few storms to quench our drought at this point,” Schwartz said.
Even before the next big storm, the central Sierra is only slightly below an average snowpack for early December. Average is normally good — but not these days.
“It is likely going to be a multi-year event that really takes us out of this drought. As we would like to see it and store plenty of water for the future,” Schwartz said.