North Tahoe in storm recovery mode; bracing for beautiful holiday weekend with challenges

Published on January 13, 2017

There is light at the end of the snow tunnel in eastern Placer County including Donner Summit and the Tahoe area, with snow expected to taper off Thursday night. The forecast shows several dry days ahead for residents and visitors over the holiday weekend. However, as businesses and residents continue to dig out from nearly 12 feet of snow over the last 10 days, the challenges are far from over.

Placer County officials say they welcome visitors to Lake Tahoe for what is surely going to be a beautiful holiday weekend, but that guests should come with plenty of patience and an expectation that challenges remain. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery, whose 5th District includes eastern Placer County, is encouraging people to come up and play, but only if they come prepared. "With some remaining power outages and deep snow,” she said, “visitors should come with an expectation that in some cases it might be like camping out in your own home."

Many areas are still without power and there are downed power lines and trees scattered throughout the region. As snow continues to fall, county Public Works crews are continuously plowing the 150 miles of streets that fall within their area of responsibility. Caltrans is responsible for plowing the highways.

A considerable avalanche danger remains in effect in many parts of the Sierra, and those considering traveling into the backcountry are strongly advised to check the Sierra Avalanche Center daily report before traveling into uncontrolled areas.

“As of Thursday, there are still significant safety issues remaining in Tahoe,” said Jennifer Merchant, Placer County’s deputy county executive officer for Lake Tahoe. “But it’s also access challenges that people should be aware of. Many residential streets have limited access. With 10 feet of snow plowed up on either side, many roads are down to one lane. It will be a beautiful holiday weekend, but it may take us a few days to truly dig ourselves out of this storm and get back to normal."

Area businesses - retail, restaurants and even resorts - may be challenged to be fully operational as their employees may still be struggling to get to work.

Merchant recommends that anyone planning to stay in vacation rentals in the residential neighborhoods should check with their host or rental company in advance to ensure the home has power and is accessible. She also advises checking resort websites prior to driving there to learn whether they are open and fully operational, in order to minimize unnecessary travel.

To be prepared for whatever might await you, officials recommend driving a four-wheel drive vehicle and carrying chains (cables are not recommended), and have water, food, blankets and extra clothing in your car. Additionally, to ensure the power is on in the community where you are planning to stay, please check Liberty Utilities website before you travel.

“Undoubtedly, for those who are able to come up and enjoy the weekend here, it will be great skiing, snowboarding or whatever your favorite snow-play activity might be,” said Merchant. “But please understand that we’ve basically been sheltering in place for three days, and we’ve got a lot of catch-up to do before the next storm comes in next week.”