Wild, wet weekend: It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s official. Today’s the first day of winter. But it’s only a number on the calendar after the winter storm-door opened early and wide on Auburn and the rest of California over the weekend. In one of the wettest weekends in recent memory, the wintry weather didn’t let up. The Auburn area was lashed by wind, pummeled with cloudbursts that fell in waves, hit by thunder and lightning, and darkened by gray skies and power outages. The National Weather Service recorded 4.05 inches of rain soaked Downtown Auburn between Friday and late Monday. Thunder and lightning rumbled and flashed in storms striking Auburn on Sunday afternoon that brought hail as well as rain. Mud and rock slides kept both Caltrans and the county Public Works Department scrambling. And in the high country, continuing snowfall forced snow-removal operations on roads going 24 hours a day. Sugar Bowl ski resort recorded as much as 60 inches of new snow at its upper elevations. “We’re hoping we get all the water we need but none of the headaches,” said Kevin Tabor, road maintenance manager for Placer County. A bellwether of how wet a storm can be, the rockslide prone Old Foresthill Road had its share of falling rock during heavy rains but wasn’t closed, Tabor said. The workload was incredible all weekend – from the manager who stopped to help on Old Foresthill Road on his way home and ended up staying 2½ hours to the snowplow operators in the Tahoe area who didn’t let up all weekend and are now looking at another storm arriving Christmas day. “We’re hoping to get them home for the weekend to be with their families.” Taber said. The forecast from the weather bureau, however, isn’t providing much hope for a Christmas respite. Tabor said crews were lucky to get a break Monday, with a few showers moving through. But meteorologist Drew Peterson, with the weather service’s Sacramento office, said another two storm systems will be arriving – one on Wednesday and the next on Christmas Day. The first should lower snow levels to 3,500 feet on Tuesday and Wednesday but pass over the Sierra fairly quickly. The second – on Saturday and with the chance of lingering through part of Sunday – could bring one of two inches of rain to Auburn, Peterson said. The winter storms are making already good ski conditions better, said Alpine Meadows ski resort employee Christian Bennett. The Sierra resort sustained a short power outage Sunday but skiers were able to enjoy a weekend of powder conditions, he said. Getting to Sierra resorts was not as difficult as the amount of snow would indicate. Rochelle Jenkins, Caltrans spokesman, said no road closures took place throughout the weekend as plow operators kept up with the amount of white stuff falling. In all, 135 pieces of equipment and 220 employees working 12-hour shifts were working on Interstate 80 over the weekend. One area of concern was a rockslide onto Interstate 80 just east of Colfax that closed a lane of eastbound traffic through Monday so debris could be removed. But Jenkins said traffic flow was still good through the site. There were no injuries when the rocks came down, she said. “Everything looks to be secure and there’s no imminent danger,” Jenkins said.