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Nugget #174

Tahoe Storm Door Kicked Open
Dec. 15, 2009

Tahoe Nuggets are back! And just in time for the first shot of bomber snowstorms that have kicked off the 2010 California ski season in fine style.

Weather activity during the past 10 days has been impressive with a series of winter storms that have blasted the region. On Dec. 7 Pacific moisture combined with very cold air to produce snow in areas that rarely see accumulating snowfall. The early season cold wave drove temperatures into record-breaking territory in Northern California. During a period of sub-freezing nights, Sacramento and the Napa Valley both slid to a frosty 20 degrees. Unusual for early December and nippy for any date.

The threat of potential snowfall in the Southern Sacramento Valley prompted the National Weather Service to issue a very rare Winter Storm Warning for possible accumulations of 2 to 4 inches in Sacramento. Even though some fell close by, no snow fell in the capitol city. (1888 holds Sacramento's all-time record snowfall with 3.5 inches on January 6 & 7.)

Temperatures in the Sierra and western Nevada were the lowest in more than a decade and made the 20 degree reading in Sacramento seem downright balmy. Reno hit minus 4; South Lake Tahoe bottomed out at 13 below; and Truckee plunged to a minus 16 degrees. The extremely cold air is still sitting in western basins keeping temps below normal there and generating a bitter frozen fog that the Indians called "pogonip."

Snowfall tallies at Lake Tahoe ski resorts for the series of storms is impressive and guarantees a substantial snowpack for the crucial upcoming Christmas and New Year Holidays.

Squaw Valley USA was buried under more than 6 feet in the past week alone, which brings their seasonal total to about 8.5 feet so far, and close to 25% of the resort's seasonal average for a whole winter. The mountain looks great right now.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort also posted significant snowfall totals and reports that they have received nearly 12 feet to date. Base depths at local ski areas now range from 3 to 6 feet. Not bad for mid-December!

The precipitation has made a significant dent in the water deficit in parts of Northern California. Rainfall to date ranges from 75% to 124% in the Bay Area. In the Central Sierra, where drought conditions are moderate to severe, these recent storms were mostly dry powder, great for skiers and boarders but relatively weak on water content.

The water content in the Lake Tahoe Basin snowpack is currently slightly above average for the date at 104 percent, and the Truckee River Basin is at 106%. It's a statistically normal start to a critical water year, but still better than the last three winters which were slow out of the gate.

It seems that everyone is infatuated with the El Nino event (ENSO) taking shape in the Pacific Ocean. It is currently at moderate strength with a chance that it will grow stronger over the next few months. It's hard to say yet how this El Nino will affect our weather patterns this winter, but forecasters are predicting a wetter than normal season in California. We're definitely off to a good start!

Besides the three photos, I've added two short video clips from my new mini video camera. It's not Warren Miller or the Wide World of Sports, but the video camera adds a new twist to photography for me. Looking forward to getting a real one next year.

BTW, my new book, "Longboards to Olympics: A Century of Tahoe Winter Sports" is finally done and at the printer. More on that in the next week or so.

Photo #1: Trees near Mt. Rose Meadows blessed by early snow.
Photo #2: Distant ridge appears through mist and clouds.
Photo #3: My new next door neighbor has a serious snow blower.

Check out the minute-long Video Clips!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfkFFyZ2Srg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57oTcKOFbB0

Nugget #174 Obscured by Clouds

Nugget #174 First Snow of Season

Nugget #174 Neighbor's Snowblower

 

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