Having already set new monthly snowfall records at Lake Tahoe ski resorts, February appears poised to close out with a bang.
A three-day winter storm could bring up to 4 feet of snow at lake level, as much as 8 feet of snow above 7,000 feet and wind gusts as strong as 140 mph over Sierra ridges.
The National Weather Service in Reno has issued a winter storm warning from 10 a.m. Monday through 4 a.m Thursday. Snow totals during that period are expected to range from 2-4 feet at lake level and 4-8 feet above 7,000 feet.
The heaviest snowfall, according to the weather service, is expected Monday night into Tuesday morning and Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. The heavy snow and strong winds will complicate travel in the Tahoe Basin.
“There will be two peaks in the storm, in which snowfall rates up to 3 inches per hour will be possible.”
“These peaks in the heavy snowfall will be punctuated by increased winds, creating periods of white-out conditions especially in the high Sierra.”
Lower elevations will see a mix of rain and snow through the storm. Snow levels will start Monday around 4,500-5,500 feet and then steadily rise the next two days. According to the weather service, snow levels are expected to max out between 6,000-7,000 feet Wednesday before falling Thursday down to the foothills.
“Once snow begins in the Sierra by mid-late this afternoon, it will be pretty much continuous all the way through early Thursday morning,” the weather service reports.
The snow from this storm will be heavy Sierra cement, which will increase the potential for large, destructive avalanches in the Sierra backcountry.
The Sierra Avalanche Center has issued an avalanche watch from 5 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Thursday.
“Very dangerous avalanche conditions may occur,” according to the avalanche center. “Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended during HIGH avalanche danger. Large destructive avalanches could occur.”
Public agencies recommend avoiding travel if possible.
“Avoid travel if possible, you could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours,” the weather service cautions. “If you must travel, prepare for long delays and carry an emergency kit with extra food, water and clothing. If you stay home, have a backup plan in case of power outages.”
This storm caps a month packed with heavy winter storms. Numerous resorts throughout the Tahoe region reported new monthly snowfall records for February about halfway through the month. Lake Tahoe holds the best snowpack in the western U.S.