Spring Dumping on the Sierra

I-80 closed for miles

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Spring snowing in the Sierra this weekend.

    The calendar may say spring, but it was more like winter in the Sierra Nevada as a storm dropped up to 2 feet of snow and snarled mountain traffic.
     
    Until the snow let up in the afternoon, chains were required on two major trans-Sierra highways linking the Sacramento, Calif., and Lake Tahoe areas: Interstate 80 over Donner Summit and U.S. 50 over Echo Summit.

    But chains were still mandatory on Highway 88 over Carson Pass south of Tahoe, and a section of the highway near Kirkwood, Calif., was closed due to avalanche-control efforts.

    Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Rachael Woods said the storm dumped from 17 to 24 inches of snow at her ski resort just north of Tahoe.

    The nearby Boreal and Soda Springs resorts atop Donner Summit reported 13 to 18 inches of new snow.  Heavenly and Northstar resorts reported totals approaching 24 inches by Sunday night with snow still falling in places.

    "(It was) quite a spring storm," Woods said, adding such late-season storms aren't all that unusual in the Sierra.

    The snowfall came as some Tahoe resorts are preparing to close for the season.

    Diamond Peak on Tahoe's north shore plans to close April 12, while Mount Rose southwest of Reno is set to close April 19.

    The California Highway Patrol reported dozens of vehicle spinouts on slick mountain highways during the storm.

    Water officials said they doubted the snowfall would help the Sierra overcome a dry January and end the season with an average snowpack water content.

    On Sunday, the snowpack water content ranged from 77 percent of average for the date in the Tahoe basin to 85 percent of average in the Truckee, Carson and Walker river basins.

    "I've got a feeling this year's pretty well written at this point," Dan Greenlee, a hydrologist with the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

    NBCBayArea meteorologist Rob Mayeda points out its tough for make up for the previous two dry Winters with a snowpack that is still slightly below average for this time of year.

    "Ideally, you'd need to see amounts in the 125-150% of average at this point to make a real difference," Mayeda said.  "A storm like this helps but definitely not a drought buster."  (for updated rain/snowpack information click here:  Drought Watch)

    Farmers in California and Nevada are again expected to receive less water than normal this year because of an anticipated third straight dry winter.