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Storms dump 4-9 feet of snow in Sierra Nevada
by Martin Griffith - Associated Press
Feb 18, 2011 | 3765 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Bryne - Destinee Ricker, an 8-year-old second-grader at Alice Maxwell Elementary School in Sparks, enjoyed some sledding Friday morning with her 2 1/2-year-old brother Dakota at Burgess Park in Sparks.
Tribune/John Bryne - Destinee Ricker, an 8-year-old second-grader at Alice Maxwell Elementary School in Sparks, enjoyed some sledding Friday morning with her 2 1/2-year-old brother Dakota at Burgess Park in Sparks.
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RENO — The latest in a string of powerful storms dropped heavy snow Friday in the Sierra Nevada and set up ski resorts for a busy Presidents Day weekend, but it also caused more traffic delays and school closures.

The Alpine Meadows ski resort just north of Lake Tahoe reported up to 4 feet of new snow over a 24-hour period ending Friday morning, for a total of as much as 9 feet of snow since the storms began Monday. Most other Sierra resorts reported 4 to 7 feet of new snow this week.

Resort operators welcomed the mountain of snow ahead of the holiday weekend, which is usually one of their most lucrative periods of the season.

“All this snow has people thinking about skiing and snowboarding again after a dry January,” said Jon Slaughter, spokesman for the Boreal resort atop Donner Summit. “Mother Nature set us up for a big weekend. She brought the light, dry powder that Utah usually brags about.”

Snow was falling at a rate of about 1 inch per hour at the Kirkwood resort south of Tahoe, said spokeswoman Prudence Wiesener.

“It’s really bucketing down. Despite the occasional road closures, it’s really attracting a crowd,” she told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Mountain motorists were not as happy as they were forced to strap on tire chains on most Sierra highways.

Chains were mandatory most of Friday except for four-wheel drive vehicles on all three major highways linking the Sacramento, Calif., and Tahoe areas: Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, U.S. 50 over Echo Summit and Highway 88 over Carson Pass.

“We’ve had heavy holiday traffic and hundreds of calls for service,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Skeen of Truckee, Calif. “Most involve vehicles that spin off slick roadways and become stuck in snowbanks.”

The Nevada Highway Patrol reported 127 crashes and 43 such spinouts across much of northern Nevada over a 20-hour period ending late Thursday afternoon. While no updated figure was available Friday, troopers stayed busy, said NHP Sgt. Bryan Jorgensen.

“The problem has been that the roads become real slick when the temperatures drop,” he said. “Most people don’t realize they’re driving on black ice.”

No major injuries were reported because traffic moved so slowly, he added.

The storm also closed schools in Washoe and Douglas counties in northwestern Nevada and in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District in California, and caused a two-hour delay in classes at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The storm also was blamed for power outages that temporarily knocked out power to about 250 Reno customers, including the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles’ main office in the city, and to about 6,000 customers around Tahoe City, Calif., on Tahoe’s north shore.

National Weather Service forecaster Shane Snyder said the snow was not expected to taper off in the region until Saturday morning. Another storm was expected late next week in the Sierra.

This week’s storms were a major boost to the Sierra snowpack, which provides much of the runoff water for homes, businesses and farms in California and Nevada, Snyder said.

The recent storms have pushed water content in the Tahoe basin’s snowpack to over 130 percent of average for the date. That figure for Tahoe had been more than 200 percent of normal for the date after an unusually snowy December and November, but had dropped after a dry January.

Elsewhere in the country, record warmth was being recorded a week after residents saw record-low temperatures in Oklahoma.

The National Weather Service said a new record was set at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City when the mercury peaked at 80 degrees Thursday. The previous record of 79 degrees was set in 1991.

The minimum temperature in Oklahoma City early Thursday was 58 degrees, breaking the previous 1991 record of 50 degrees.

Forecasters said Tulsa tied a record high temperature of 79 degrees, and Bartlesville reached a record high 82 degrees, three degrees warmer than the old record. Both previous records were reported in 1907.
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