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Sierra snowstorm buoys Placer tire chain, ski industry hopes

Snowfall overnight Sunday reached 10 inches at higher elevations
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A year ago, Applegate chain seller Chris Brown was basking in a wintry season that produced record snow totals and a virtual avalanche of business. Brown, owner of Applegate Chain Sales just off Interstate 80, recalls wistfully being interviewed for a TV piece on the Big Snow of 2011 that aired nationally. This year, business has dropped off the table because of the lack of snow. “I’d be struggling to make over 20 percent (of last year’s business),” Brown said, as the cars whizzed by yards away on I-80 and trucks were stopped at the Applegate exit chain-control area for a quick check before lumbering uphill toward Nevada. “That’s if we have another storm.” Brown said Sunday’s wasn’t enough to spur a jump in sales. “I’ve had two cars and two trucks since yesterday at 6 p.m.,” Brown said. “It’s been slow even with the weather.” Outside his store, a tractor-trailer rig idled noisily, its driver reluctant to spend $345 on chains and content to wait out any possibility of a storm over the Sierra. The storm overnight Sunday brought as much as 10 inches of white stuff to the Sierra peaks, dusting them with a fresh coating of powder to attract a fresh throng of snow-starved skiers and boarders. At Squaw Valley USA, spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said she was hearing reports from skiers of fantastic powder skiing Monday morning. “They said conditions are great – there’s a lot of new snow,” Richmond said. Richmond said that the new storm has been the latest icing on the cake for a heavy storm in January that planted a thick base of six feet of snow. “It’s been really great since then and these conditions only make it better,” Richmond said. At Applegate, Brown works in a chain store that has been operating off and on for 40 years. It initially made its own chains but now stocks product provided by a manufacturer. “Last year, we had such a great winter,” Brown said “Hopefully winter’s finally arrived.” The overnight snowfall resulted in chain controls as low as Colfax along Interstate 80. The freeway near Gold Run was also temporarily shut down as semis backed up and got stuck. But by late morning, the snow was already beginning to melt in some of the lower areas and Caltrans had eased any controls on any Sierra roads. At Dutch Flat, Jim Ricker said five inches of snow had fallen overnight but the snow level was down to three inches by noon as warmer daytime temperatures moved in. Meteorologist Holly Osborne of the Sacramento National Weather Service office said as much as 10 inches of new snow fell during the storm at higher elevations. But snow was also reported as low as 2,500 feet. Grass Valley experienced 2½ inches in the early morning but a melt as the day moved along, Osborne said. The system was already moving south by late Monday, promising a dry Tuesday until a new storm moves in Tuesday night, Osborne said. Snow levels will again drop to 2,500 to 3,000 feet. “But the amounts of snow will be less with this one,” Osborne said. That could mean three to five inches at high elevations and an inch in communities like Colfax and Foresthill, she said. Another round of precipitation is expected to arrive on the weekend, most likely Friday, Osborne said. For Brown, that could mean one of the few spikes in business Applegate Chain Sales has experienced this season. “I know people have got to be hurting,” Brown said. “But that’s what happens when you depend on the weather.”