Atmospheric River Eddies

Michelle Parker reminisces about the exuberant snow falls that struck northern California last January. Take a dive into a blurry weather episode with the sparkling crow from Lake Tahoe.

“When you think of California, you might not think of 40 foot tall snow banks and an endless storm cycle that we dubbed the snowpocalypse, but this January if you weren’t skiing in Lake Tahoe, you were most definitely shoveling yourself out. January was a blur. It’s February now and my legs are strong, but in need of a couple days off. Snow in California has been a bit of a rarity in the past few years. 2011 was the last time that we experienced storms that we measured in feet rather than inches. The stoke is back and excitement is at an all time high. I simply can’t stop skiing…or shoveling.
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While it was somewhat like living in a winter wonderland, it proved to be quite the undertaking for our town. Trees were falling on power lines, houses, and cars. The power was out for long periods of time causing businesses to lose tens of thousands of dollars in food and revenue. Roofs collapsed and my local plow driver was hospitalized for dehydration from working so many long hours. The mountains shut down because of too much snow. Lifts were buried and one morning the avalanche danger was black. That means on all aspects, all elevations, the rating was extreme. We received, on average, 11”-16”” per day for an 8 day stretch putting our storm total in January to 23 feet!

Each morning, I wake up, put my ski gear on, and head out my creaky front door permanently jammed due to weight on the roof, and start shoveling. I throw my skis in my truck and drive to the West Shore of Lake Tahoe to hike for my turns. Upon arrival, I grab my shovel once again, and dig out a parking spot before clicking into my skis. This pattern seemed to repeat itself for an entire month coinciding with days at Squaw Valley skiing top to bottom runs of fresh powder bell to bell. It was a nice reminder of what winter used to look like blanketing our mountains in white.

At one point I attempted to leave Tahoe for a skiing trip, but immediately got shut down as the roads were closed. This was fine with me. The skiing was phenomenal and it seemed silly to leave powder for powder. I felt like a little kid again skiing from my house into town and touring around while the power was out and the roads not plowed. It’s February now and we are, yet again, amidst another storm. I will likely never forget January of 2017.

I was nearly finished with this story when a photographer showed up to town and I got sidetracked hunting down the last bit of the January snowfall. It’s been a week now and the weather has changed from snow to rain.

In the first ten days of January Lake Tahoe gained, 33,6 billion gallons of water. In the last two days alone, Tahoe has gained 8.7 billion gallons. There is a plus to all of this rain and things are looking up for California’s drought recovery, but it sure does toy with my mind. I am torn between weathering out the storm in hopes of a lower snow line on the East Side of the Sierra and pulling the rip cord to travel to a colder climate. My bags were half way packed yesterday morning bound for Jackson Hole when I read the headlines that Jackson was closed for the foreseeable future due to power outages.

I picked up my ukulele to ease my mind. You’ve got to work with what mother nature gives you right? Enjoy the latest original by Aaron Blatt and myself. There may be more on the way as I seem to have caught the down day blues…”

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