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article imageWinter storm dumps 4.3 billion gallons of water into Lake Tahoe

By Megan Hamilton     Dec 23, 2015 in Environment
Truckee - A Monday storm brought a bit of drought-relief to California's parched Lake Tahoe by dumping 4.3 billion gallons, boosting the lake's level almost two inches, said Tim Bardsley, a National Weather Service hydrologist.
Nearly 80 percent of the rise occurred because of rain and snow falling directly on the lake, USA Today reports.
Earlier, it was estimated that 6.4 billion gallons had fallen, but based on a comparison between lake volume and surface elevation, 4.3 is a more accurate calculation, Bardsley said.
"We would need seven or eight more (storms) of that magnitude to get back to the rim," he said. Less might be needed if there is a lot of snow melt, he added. "And we need six more feet for a full lake — that would take an enormous amount of snow and rain."
Area where the storm was forecast to receive rain and snow.
Area where the storm was forecast to receive rain and snow.
National Weather Service
In July, KRON 4 reported that water levels in the lake were shrinking and receding every day. The lake's 71-mile shoreline was receding as much as one inch each week, Patrick Wright with the California Tahoe Conservancy told KRON.
Although this doesn't sound like much, it amounts to 3.5 billion gallons per week, he said.
The receding shoreline has been ankle-deep for hundreds of yards, so the upcoming El Nino-fueled storms may help Lake Tahoe recover to its pre-drought levels with higher than normal rainfall.
The rain falling on the lake now is part of a major winter storm that's dumped several feet of fresh snow on ski resorts in the area. It's also made for treacherous driving conditions over mountain passes, SFGate reports.
Some parts of the Sierra reported over two feet of snow above, 6,700 feet, and as much as four feet could fall before the system passes, the National Weather Service (NWS) reports.
Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood resorts reported receiving about three feet of snow between 7 a.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday, SFGate reports, and snow levels hovered between 6,200 feet and 7,000 feet. Around lake level — about 6,000 feet — mostly rain fell, but a few hundred feet higher, rain mixed with snow in slushy conditions.
The NWS reported that blowing snow due to windy conditions would create near whiteout conditions accompanied by icy roads, the Sierra Sun reported. Driving conditions may be hazardous, and snow tire or chain restrictions may be in effect along most passes and highways. This may include Interstate 80, U.S. Highway 50, California highways 28, 89 and 267. In Nevada, restrictions may be in effect for highways 28, 207, and 431.
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