May 28, 2024

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

CARSON CITY, NEVADA - Carter Eckl of Carson City, Nevada, said it’s common for people to show pride in Nevada for having about 300 days of sun a year.

That number will be less this year.

“It’s been gloomy the past six weeks or so,” he said.

Eckl, who wrote sports for the Creston News Advertiser from 2017 to 2019, said people in the region are constantly shoveling snow falling from those gloomy skies that has had incredible amounts that started before Christmas. Carson City is east of Lake Tahoe which borders California.

“I’ve been here four years and it’s easily the heaviest winter I’ve seen in a lot of years,” he said. He said during the previous three years 7 inches of snow was the most from one storm.

“This year, we’ve had about a foot on three different occasions,” he said.

And it’s still snowing. And it’s falling in much of California.

Rare blizzard warnings went into effect in late February in the mountain ranges of Southern California as an arctic air mass plunged down the West Coast, plastering California’s coast ranges and the Sierra Nevada, the mount range along the Calfornia-Nevada border.

In an extremely unusual event, staggering amounts of snow fell east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino Mountains and the adjacent San Gabriel Mountains, where thousands of people live or visit communities at high elevations reached by windy, steep highways.

Both mountain ranges routinely have winter snowfalls, but what looked like the foundation for epic downhill ski days instead became a nightmare.

Big Bear City, in the mountains east of metro-Los Angeles, received 80 inches of snow over a seven-day period, the most since these records have been tracked, according to meteorologist Alex Tardy, with the National Weather Service in San Diego. Until now, the most snow recorded in a seven-day period there was 58 inches in 1979.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared emergencies in 13 of California’s 58 counties beginning March 1.

“It’s piled high every where you look; parking lots, along roads and driving up to Lake Tahoe. It’s everywhere and keeps coming,” Eckl said.

Eckl said he has heard from others who claim around Lake Tahoe it has maybe been 52 years for record snow amounts. “That was in the middle of January and it’s still snowing,” he said.

Carson City High has postponed four baseball games already and car accidents are numerous in the area.

But there is some good to come out of it. The snow is dry like a powder which is ideal for recreation.

“As a snowboarder that has been a perk. I’ve tried to take advantage to get into the mountains.”

But getting out of town is a challenge as he said piles of snow cleared from parking lots and sidewalks are throughout and getting bigger.

“The biggest annoyance is just the amount of times they have to shovel. ‘I’m sick of winter,’ people say,” Eckl said.

Eckl said, with limited sun, constant shoveling is urged to prevent ice formation.

Some California mountain residents found themselves unable to leave their homes or vacation rentals, much less free their vehicles.

San Bernardino County authorities said the snowfall was so great it exceeded the capability of plows to clear roads, requiring earth-moving equipment and dump trucks to pick up and move snow.

A shortage of tire chains further hampered the response.

Highways were closed to all but emergency vehicles, frustrating residents who had been away when the storm hit and were forbidden to head back up to their homes.

Sections of key mountain roads in the Big Bear area were reopened to residents only. The California Highway Patrol warned people returning home that they may encounter enormous snow drifts, downed power lines and potential gas leaks.

Roof collapses due to the weight of snow were reported, including a grocery store in the community of Crestline.

Shoveling the snow away is just one part of the result of the snow-heavy winter. The spring melt will be another.

“I’m not sure about Tahoe, but there is always a concern about flooding come spring,” Eckl said.

Much of the West, including California has been in severe drought for years. The constant, heavy snowfall has already helped replenish reservoirs in California and improved on the state’s drought condition. Additional snow only adds more risk of flooding, and more water in the reservoirs, come spring.

Associated Press contributed to this story

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.