It looks like the unsettled weather will continue, off and on, for the next week or so. As we head into the weekend, mainly mountain showers will start to taper off through Saturday, and conditions will remain relatively benign through most of Sunday before the next storm moves into the region late Sunday night into Monday. Snow levels should stay well off the valley floors, but could drop to the lake periodically into the first half of next week. High temperatures in the valleys will hover around the 50 degree mark through Tuesday before rising to the mid-upper 50s late next week.
Last month, the National Weather Service issued a Blizzard Warning for the mountains around the Lake Tahoe area. This is a warning that doesn’t get issued very often, and anytime you hear it given you should take it seriously.
“Blizzard” is actually a term that gets bandied about a lot around here, and it is almost always used incorrectly. I will often get calls from weather watchers during a good snowfall telling me that there’s a “real blizzard” going on out there. When I ask them what they mean, the usually reply that the “snow is really coming down.”
In reality, a blizzard doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of snow falling… in fact, technically speaking, a blizzard can occur when no snow is falling from the sky. A blizzard occurs when the winds are greater than 34 mph, and the visibility from blowing snow drops below one-quarter of a mile.
There are gradations of blizzards as well. A “severe blizzard” occurs if the above criteria are met along with a temperature of 10 degrees F or lower. Bob Titus wrote in to say when he was in the Antarctic; all of the blizzards were ‘severe’, with winds above 100 mph gusting into the anemometer stops at 140 mph, with temperatures of minus 40 to minus 60 degrees F. Not exactly a place at which you’d want to hold a wedding reception.
True blizzards are one of the most dangerous storms there are, mainly because people don’t realize the hazard until it’s too late. My father grew up in North Dakota, and related countless tales of farmers who died when they neglected to tie a rope from their back door to the barn. With wicked winds and zero visibility, many would get lost within 100 feet of their houses, cries for help lost in the howling winds.