Forecast summaries for Tahoe residents and Sierra-bound travelers
A weak low pressure system is moving through the Sierra this morning in advance of what is promising to be a wet and wild weekend in the Tahoe Basin.
This first system is cold and not too moist, but with decent dynamics as it hits the Sierra’s western slope it is expected to deliver at least 6 inches of snow to Tahoe, perhaps between 6 and 10 inches in some locations. Donner Summit already had three or four inches this morning, with more on the way before the storm tapers to showers later in the morning. Scattered showers are likely through the day, with heavier snow falling south of Tahoe.
After a brief break, a warmer and wetter weather system will descend on the Sierra through the weekend.
This storm is expected to arrive midday Friday, and it is tapping into an “atmospheric river” of moisture stretching from the Pacific Coast to Hawaii.
At first snow levels will be around 5000 feet due to the cold air present at the surface. But as the warm moisture tap moves into the region, snow levels will rise overnight. The big question is how high they will go. It looks like they are heading toward 7500 to 8000 feet, but snow levels might remain below 7000 feet with the first surge on Saturday. This wave will also bring some strong winds, with gusts of 6o mph to 70 mph possible at the crest.
A second surge of moisture from this system is due on Sunday, and snow levels will probably rise a little higher with that one, to above 7000 feet, possibly above 8000 feet. If not, the resorts would likely see more snow at their lodges than they’ve had all season so far.
Between Friday afternoon and Sunday night the Sierra is expected to receive a total of at least 3 or 4 inches of precipitation. Above the snow line, that means three to four feet of snow, even at the low snow-to-water ratios we are going to be seeing. Those then are the totals we can probably expect above 8000 feet, with lesser amounts below 7000 feet and mostly rain below 6000 feet. Some of the forecast models are even showing up to 7 inches of precipitation possible, which would mean two or three more feet of snow at the highest peaks, but that’s not the most likely scenario at this point.
One promising detail of the forecast is that snow levels are expected to drop again by Monday, to below 6000 feet. Although most of the moisture will be south and east of Tahoe by then, if the timing changes just a bit we could see colder air sooner, and more snow at lower elevations. We’ll keep hoping for that to be the case.
The weather pattern will remain unsettled for much of next week but it appears that the best energy from any additional storms will remain north of Tahoe for the time being.
Check www.tahoeloco.com for updates.
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