Early snow in Sierra lifts hopes for winter (watch video)
A fall storm barreling out of the north coated the Sierra with early season snow Monday, offering what many hope might be a glimpse of a healthy winter to come.
But whether that will be the case — or if the Reno-Tahoe region is instead in for a third dry winter in a row — remains an open question, with nature offering few clues as to the answer.
“This was just a teaser for the winter, basically,” Kelly Redmond of the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno said of Monday’s storm.
Preceded by strong winds Sunday that stripped the trees of fall colors, the storm started dropping mountain snow late Sunday night and continued into Monday morning.
Three to six inches of snow was reported around Lake Tahoe. Some higher-elevation locations reported significantly more — up to 15 inches at Sugar Bowl near Donner Summit and a foot or more in many other places, according to the National Weather Service.
Mountain snow showers were expected to continue overnight, with several more inches of accumulation possible by today.
In the foothills of the Carson Range, 1 to 2 inches was reported Monday above 5,000 feet from Reno south to Minden-Gardnerville, with more than 5 inches falling at one location at 5,300 feet west of Carson City due to possible lake-effect snow from Lake Tahoe, the weather service said.
South Tahoe’s Heavenly Mountain Resort reported its first significant snowfall of the season with up to 8 inches on the ground by Monday morning. The drop in temperatures produced chilly enough conditions for the resort to fire up its snow guns to start preparations for the coming ski season.
“It’s time to focus on preparing for winter and begin making snow,” said Pete Sonntag, vice president and chief operating officer at Heavenly, which plans to open Nov. 22.
“There is something about this time of year leading up to the winter season,” Sonntag said. “It holds so much promise and you can feel the anticipation building.”
Startup of snow-making operations also is a hedge against an uncertain winter. Two back-to-back subpar winters have offered challenging conditions for Sierra ski resorts, as well as diminished the region’s reservoirs. Many people are hoping for an above-average winter in 2013-1014, particularly to replenish water supplies.
No one can say what’s coming. Neither an El Nino or La Nina weather phenomenon — characterized by warmer- or cooler-than-average ocean surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific, is in place this year.
Either one would give climate experts a better guess at what might be expected this winter.
Experimental computer models are offering mixed messages. Some suggest another “droughty” winter ahead, Redmond said. Others suggest it might be a wet one.
“I can’t see anything in the tea leaves that’s pointing to either wetter or drier,” Redmond said.
See Video Here: http://www.rgj.com/article/20131029/NEWS15/310290021/1459/news