4,000 customers still without power in Reno-Tahoe area after storm brings high winds, snow

Associated Press

More than 4,000 customers in the Reno-Tahoe area remained without power Friday, a day after an intense storm produced winds of up to nearly 150 mph and dropped as much as 22 inches of snow.

As many as 11,000 customers in the region lost service during the height of Thursday's windstorm, which lured surfers to Lake Tahoe to catch unusually large waves.

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The blustery weather also toppled truck rigs and trees, including a large pine that fell on a Tahoe City home and nearly crushed a sleeping woman inside.

The largest power outages affected the Stateline area on Tahoe's south shore and the Caughlin Ranch area of Reno. Power should be restored to them later Friday, NV Energy spokesman Karl Walquist said.

Smaller, scattered outages were reported in Carson City and the Carson Valley.

"The outages were weather-related, mostly due to tree branches and trees falling on lines, and debris getting blown into lines," Walquist said by email. "NV Energy crews are working around the clock to get everyone back in service."

The region's highest wind speed was 147 mph at Mount Lincoln near Donner Summit, National Weather Service spokeswoman Jessica Kielhorn said. Winds at Reno-Tahoe International Airport reached 71 mph, the highest since 2009.

Airport operations returned to normal Friday after 38 of about 100 commercial flights had to be canceled Thursday because of high winds, spokesman Brian Kulpin said.

In Tahoe City, the pine tree that smashed into a home Thursday morning landed next to the bed of a sleeping woman inside.

A subsequent fire caused major damage to the home, but the Auburn, California, family of four inside escaped unharmed.

"It was a miracle that my wife did not get killed from the tree falling through the house," Edward Walker told KOLO-TV of Reno.

The windstorm also brought a rare sight to Tahoe's north shore: swells of up to 7 feet and surfers. Waves of that size occur at Tahoe only about once every 10 years, surfers said.

"These are the best waves I have ever seen on Lake Tahoe," surfer James Wooden told KOLO. "They are coming in like the ocean sets. Clean surface, it is unreal."

The storm left varying amounts of snow at Sierra ski resorts preparing for the busy Christmas holiday season, with areas closer to the crest receiving higher totals.

To the north of Lake Tahoe, Sugar Bowl reported 22 inches of new snow, Boreal 20 inches, Squaw Valley 16 inches and Alpine Meadows 14 inches. Elsewhere, Sierra-at-Tahoe got 13 inches, Northstar 8 inches, and Mount Rose 3 inches.

Lower elevations around the lake received from one-third to three-quarters of an inch of rain, Kielhorn said.

The storm was expected to taper off Friday, bringing lighter winds and snow, according to the weather service.

The weather prompted officials at the Lake Tahoe Unified School District on Tahoe's south shore to send home students early Thursday and to keep students home Friday.