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Tahoe Nugget #155:

Storm Door Opens in November
Nov. 3, 2008

With the arrival of November, stormy weather has invaded Northern California. It's right on schedule. This month marks the real beginning of the winter season, when an average of more than eleven days of measureable precipitation can be expected in the Central Sierra.

This weekend's Pacific storm was wet and juicy, but relatively warm so the expected heavy snowfall in the upper elevations did not materialize. However, I did hear that a snowboarder who climbed for some runs in the Mt. Rose area reported finding snow nearly two feet deep above 9,000 feet.

In general, however, high snow levels near 8,000 feet brought rain to the main highway passes near Donner Summit (Interstate 80) and Echo Summit (Highway 50), which spared weekend motorists the hassles of snow covered roads, chain controls and speeds reduced to 25 or 30 mph.

Storm totals were impressive with more than 5 inches of rain on the Sierra west slope. Donner Lake was drenched with more than 3 inches in just 24 hours, but unfortunately the parched Lake Tahoe Basin received lesser amounts.

This wet storm launched the 2009 Water Year with pretty good numbers, but there is still a long way to go and many California reservoirs are near historically low levels.

At the Central Sierra Snow Lab near Donner Pass, November storms are important as they usually produce more than ten percent of the average yearly totals, with 48 inches of snow and more than six inches of precipitation. On average about 75 percent of California's annual precipitation falls between November and March; half occurs between December and February.

Getting enough natural snowfall in November for skiing or snowboarding is often a challenge in the Sierra, but colder temperatures usually give regional resorts an opportunity to pump out an early base with snowmaking equipment.

In the last decade, snowmaking technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and Tahoe resorts have invested heavily in snow making systems. At the moment, Boreal Ski Resort at Donner Pass has only a few inches of natural snow on its slopes, but due to its mellow terrain and extensive snow making capability they plan on opening this weekend – less than five days from now.

If they pull it off they will be the first ski area to open in the Sierra, giving them bragging rights and a welcome money stream.

A colder Pacific storm is expected to hit tonight with snowfall accumulations of up to 12 inches above 7,000 feet. If this forecast verifies, I'll be backcountry skiing tomorrow!

Tahoe Nuggets are now archived at www.thestormking.com

Photo #1: In late October 2008, Boreal made enough snow to host a pre-season snowboarding competition — 650 kids showed up.
Photo #2: Storm clouds moving in on Donner Pass.
Photo #3: High snow levels brought mostly rain to Boreal Ski Resort and melted much of the man-made snow.
Photo #4: Peaceful Truckee River between Tahoe City and Squaw Valley.
Photo #5: Pines cloaked in green moss along Truckee River.
Photo #6: Squaw Valley picked up some snow in the upper elevations.
Photo #7: Low water levels in Lake Tahoe closed the Tahoe Vista boat ramp.
Photo #8: Wind and rain have stripped the aspen trees.

Nugget #155 A Boreal Ski Area before Storm

Nugget #155 B Storm clouds approach Donner Pass

Nugget #155 C Boreal picked up some snowfall

Nugget #155 D Truckee River reflection02

Nugget #155 E Trees covered in green lichen

Nugget #155 F Squaw Valley upper elevation snowfall

Nugget #155 F Tahoe Vista Boat Ramp closed

Nugget #155 G Aspen leaves in Nov rain

 

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