This Friday will mark the two month anniversary since anyone in the Lake Tahoe region has been able to stick a ruler in the snow and measure its depth. But a strong system moving through the Pacific might change things just before that dubious distinction arrives.
There is still bare dirt at Squaw Valley. Photo By The Storm King
The forecast calls for several waves of moisture to slam into the Sierra Nevada over the next seven days, and the snow could be measured in feet, not inches. It's not uncommon for big storms to hit Tahoe in January — it's the biggest snowfall month on average — however the difference this January is that this storm will fall on dry ground. So what does that mean for skiers and boarders? Essentially it will take a lot of snow to build the base quickly and this storm is shaping up to do just that.
Related Video: Snow Science Series
The first storm moves in on Wednesday night and takes aim just north of Tahoe, but there should be enough moisture to bring several inches above 7,000 feet to the south side. The main job of the storm however, is to pave the way for the big storm on Friday and Saturday.
Friday and Saturday
This is the storm everyone has been waiting for. Two waves should start hitting the region on Friday and they will be filled with lots of subtropical moisture from across the Pacific.
Precipitation is forecasted to hit the Sierra Nevada and Pacific Northwest
The snow level may lift as high as 8,000 feet due to the warmer moisture, but should temps fall on Saturday as a cold front approaches. Total accumulations will still need to be fine tuned as the storm gets closer, but right now it looks like several feet could fall above 8,000 feet, with a couple of feet possible below that as snow levels fall on Saturday.
Below is the total precipitation forecast through Saturday off of the GFS forecast model showing 3-5 inches of liquid for the Tahoe Basin.
Sunday and Beyond
After Friday, and Saturday, there won’t be much of a break as the storm train continues. Colder storms will start rolling in Sunday, and again next Tuesday. While hard to predict, they could drop a few feet of snow as well.
So get out your skis and boards and be ready for hopefully a bit weekend.
Start of a Big Season?
And remember, dry spells in Tahoe are common during the winter months. There was a six week dry spell that spanned from last January into February. That spell was followed by 500 inches of snowfall that didn’t stop until the middle of June, and allowed for skiing on the July 4th.
Also, during the '07/'08 season, the snow didn’t start until the first week of January, and by the end of the month the snowpack was above average.
Will this be the beginning of another big come back for the Tahoe region? Only time will tell, but at least it will be manna for the skiers and dollars from the sky for the hurting businesses.
Bryan Allegretto is a meteorologist and editor of of Tahoeweatherdiscussion.com
SNOW SCIENCE VIDEO: Why long-range forecasts are tough, but eight days out things start to get sweet.
For More Snow Science check out our dedicated Snow Science Page