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Lake Tahoe Winter Weather Emergency Brings Staggering Snowfall

North Tahoe Fire Protection District

1:15 pm Thursday update:

Much of this information was compiled from Placer County press releases:

Some staggering snow totals are coming in from the Lake Tahoe area that's been battered by a blizzard since Monday night.

As of 10 am Thursday, the Kirkwood ski resort has received 4 feet of new snow in the last 24 hours for a seven-day total of more than 11 feet. More than 4 feet of new snow also was reported at Sugar Bowl near Donner Pass. 

A voluntary evacuation alert has been issued in Olympic Valley due to extreme avalanche danger.  The advisory is in effect for residents of the north side of the valley, between Squaw Valley Road and Sandy Way.

A large avalanche fell on Alpine Meadows Rd. Tuesday morning damaging 10-15 homes.

Residents of the south west Donner Lake area are advised that a HIGH avalanche danger exists and will probably continue for the next few days. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. For more information, check the Sierra Avalanche Center website at: www.sierraavalanchecenter.org.

North Lake Tahoe Public Utility District customers are urged to limit water usage as both water and sewer systems are running on generators.

All Placer County offices in Tahoe are closed. Today is a snow day for non-essential county employees.

Placer County still has a warming and phone charging station open at the North Tahoe Public Utilities District located at 221 Fairway Drive, Tahoe City.

Rain, snow, strong winds and flooding are expected to continue into Thursday. Creeks in western Placer County are expected to top their banks, and residents are encouraged to be prepared for possible flooding,

North Lake Tahoe Public Utility District customers are strongly urged to limit water usage as both water and sewer systems are running on generators.

4 pm Wednesday update:

The Lake Tahoe region has experienced high winds and heavy snow fall creating unsafe road conditions and a high risk for avalanche danger.

Emergency personnel are asking residents of Incline Village and Crystal Bay to shelter in place.

Reno Public Radio's Anh Gray checks in with an official from the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District to learn more.

Interview highlights:

· The storm has taken down trees and power lines, so many people have been without power, Internet, and cell service.

· Emergency management officials are working with NV Energy to create a priority list of people who need the power restored due to medical conditions, but there are many trees down on power lines.

· Mark Regan, fire marshal for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, says he anticipates that the “shelter in place” warning will remain in effect for another 24-48 hours until roads are clear and power is restored.

· Call 2-1-1 for a downed power line.

· Even if you get cabin fever, stay inside.

· There’s heavy, wet snow on the trees and they are falling over. 

The below information has been gleaned from emergency management press releases from agencies around Lake Tahoe:

The Placer County Office of Emergency Services has issued an emergency alert encouraging a voluntary evacuation for residents of Olympic Valley this (Wednesday) morning. The advisory is in effect for residents of the north side of the valley between Squaw Valley Road and Sandy Way.

Residents of the south west Donner Lake area are advised that a HIGH avalanche danger exists and will probably continue for the next few days. Travel in avalanche terrain, on or below slopes 30 degrees and steeper is not recommended. Homes along Washoe, Conifer and South Shore Drive are in an avalanche zone and may consider evacuating. Avalanches could run into areas of mature forest.

The Placer County Public Information Line: 530-886-5310

Placer County has also opened four warming and charging centers in the North Lake Tahoe area. They provide the public a place to stay warm and charge their phones. People should not expect food and water at these locations, and pets are not allowed. Locations include:

Tahoe City Public Utility District (221 Fairway Drive, Tahoe City)

North Tahoe Public Utility District (875 National Avenue, Tahoe Vista)

Truckee Tahoe Airport (10356 Truckee Airport Road, Truckee)

Squaw Valley Fire Department (305 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley)

North Tahoe Fire Protection District:

Tree instability is very dangerous right now in the Tahoe Basin. The mix of extremely saturated soils and heavy snow, coupled with high winds experienced over the last few days, has created a risk of trees falling. Crews have responded to numerous downed power lines, caused both by the heavy snow and trees falling on the power lines. In addition, firefighters are responding to trees in homes which have displaced numerous people from their homes. Be careful and stay inside if safe and possible. If you see yellow or red tape, stay away.

Tuesday, and late into the night; crews responded to multiple avalanches in the Alpine Meadows and river corridor of SR 89. The instability of the snowpack is not something to take lightly. The District advises people to stay indoors if safe, and to seek a safer location if they fear they are in danger. Between 12-15 houses total were involved in the slides at Alpine Meadows. There has been some structural damage to the homes, but no foundational issues found. There were no injuries at any of the events. The road has been cleared but remains closed at this time.

Make sure you are monitoring your propane tank. Propane tanks that are covered in deep snow are at risk for leaks, as the weight of the heavy snow can cause fittings, joints, and sometimes even the entire tank to shift. This problem can be compounded by snow being cleared off roofs, driveways, and walkways onto tanks, lines, and fittings. Large piles of snow surrounding tanks and lines can also prevent leaking gas from escaping thus creating a huge pocket of gas that could fuel a massive explosion or leak into your home.

Credit Scott Bliss
Snow outside a residence in Incline Village on January 10, 2017.

12:30 pm Wednesday update:

Tuesday night, the Lake Tahoe region experienced high winds and heavy snow fall creating unsafe road conditions and a high risk for avalanche danger.

Even though many residents in Incline Village and Crystal Bay are currently without power, emergency personnel are asking them to stay in place. 

Mark Regan is the Fire Marshall and Battalion Chief of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

“We’re asking everyone in Crystal Bay and Incline Village to shelter in place until we can restore the power and clear the roadways from the snow and also all the trees across the roadways.”

Regan says there is a winter storm warning for the Greater Lake Tahoe area and safety concerns still persist for the region.

In the meantime, emergency workers are conducting welfare checks on vulnerable people in the community.

10:30 am Wednesday update:

From the Associated Press:

More than 25,000 homes and businesses remain without power in the Sierra and around Lake Tahoe as crews try to repair power lines downed by toppled trees and mudslides.

Liberty Utilities spokeswoman Kathy Carter says power was restored early Wednesday to about 1,700 of their customers in South Lake Tahoe, California.

But power outages continue to affect about 20,000 customers on the west and north shores of the lake, and from Truckee north to Portola, California.

Carter says crews worked through the night after numerous large trees fell through the power lines late Tuesday.

NV Energy says it has restored power to about 3,000 of the 10,000 customers who lost it early Wednesday on the Nevada side of the lake around Incline Village.

An avalanche affected about a dozen homes on the lake's west shore near Alpine Meadows ski resort Tuesday afternoon, but no injuries were reported. An avalanche warning remains in effect throughout the region through 5 p.m. Wednesday.

4 pm Tuesday update:

Much of the following information was compiled by KUNR from a Washoe County press release:

The Sierra Avalanche Center has issued a High Avalanche Warning for the Lake Tahoe area. Residents of the Crystal Bay and Incline Village areas are being asked to shelter in place.

Washoe County officials report that wind speeds and snowfall rates are increasing dramatically.

Avalanches large enough to break trees and move cars have occurred in Crystal Bay under similar circumstances.

Stay away from uphill windows and doors. This advisory may last for the next 24 hours or longer.

Scott McGuire with the National Weather Service says driving conditions Tuesday are life-threatening.

“We’re talking about zero visibility, high winds, extreme high-intensity snowfall rates where the California Department of Transportation and Nevada Department of Transportation can’t keep up with the snowfall. It just becomes unsafe for everybody.”

Road crews will not be plowing streets in the avalanche-danger area until further notice.

In all areas of northern Nevada, there is a continuing risk of falling trees due to high winds and saturated ground. Trees could fall without warning.