San Francisco Chronicle

Snow-loving city weary of winter storms

South Lake Tahoe, a place that thrives off snow and skiing, is tired

- By Michael Cabanatuan Reach Michael Cabanatuan: mcabanatua­n@sfchronicl­; Twitter: @ctuan

South Lake Tahoe, a city that usually yearns for massive, cold storms to cover its celebrated ski slopes, has had enough.

A parade of punishing winter storms has dumped historic amounts of snow on the city of just over 21,000, clogging their streets, collapsing roofs, cutting off electricit­y and disrupting much of ordinary life as locals wait for the snow and rain to break.

As the latest atmospheri­c river storm swept across the Sierra Nevada on Tuesday, bringing three-tenths of an inch of rain instead of snow, many South Lake Tahoe residents said they’re ready for summer.

“We are all over it; it’s too much,” said Khanha Vong, owner of TV Donuts in a shopping center where feet of snow piled on a supermarke­t roof forced it to close. “If you asked 100 locals, 100 would say it’s too much.”

It’s been a rough winter in South Lake Tahoe. Storms have knocked out power to some for days, closed highways multiple times, especially for trucks making deliveries, and delivered so much snow that snowplows can’t keep up.

Many city residentia­l streets were little more than a car-width wide with 10-foot walls of snow on either side interrupte­d by messy gashes marking driveway entrances. Even busy Highway 50, the main route through South Lake, still sports a dirty berm of snow in the center of the road, and hasn’t been widened to its full width.

“People are getting really mad,” said Lupita Estrada, who works at the front desk of the Hotel Becket. “They don’t realize the snowplow drivers are working really hard.”

In recent weeks, the growing snow masses have caused roof collapses — at a supermarke­t, an apartment building, several houses and storage areas, a gas station canopy and elsewhere. More are likely as more snow and ice dams, caused by the melting and freezing of snow and rain, cause the weight on roofs to grow heavier, contractor­s told The Chronicle.

Making the situation worse, the heavy snows have caused more than half of the South Shore area’s large grocery stores to shutter.

Last weekend, snow caused part of the roof over a Raley’s supermarke­t in the Stateline area to collapse. As a precaution, Raley’s closed its other supermarke­t near the junction of highways 50 and 89 known as “the Y” and brought in crews to remove feet of snow from the roof. Safeway also temporaril­y closed a supermarke­t in the Round Hill area in Nevada, leaving the South Shore area with just two large grocery stores, a Safeway and a Grocery Outlet.

“So now people can’t get groceries so easily,” said Astraea Marion, a Lake Tahoe Community College student and Tahoe native buying doughnuts from Vong. “It’s already more expensive here so people drive to Carson City, but the snows often close the pass.”

Business was slow Tuesday at TV Donuts, but Vong was busy filling large containers with hot coffee for workers shoveling snow off the roof at Raley’s. Richard Spaulding, a roof worker picking up the coffee, said it was grueling work, with 75 to 100 workers working 10to 12-hour shifts to remove as much as 7 feet of snow from the roof.

“We’ve been up there three days and we’re only one third of the way across it,” he said.

General contractor­s Alex Gunderson and Colton Adams of Reno were taking a lunch break after a morning of removing snow from homes around Lake Tahoe, jobs they started picking up a few weeks ago while waiting for painting work.

“It’s all we’ve been doing for weeks,” Adams said.

The pair, who are business partners, use ropes and sometimes saws to slice through the snow and send it crashing to the ground. When they can, they cut off a cornice, climb onto the roof using climbing gear and helmets, build a flat spot and get to work.

“It’s death-defying,” Gunderson said, admitting he used to have a fear of heights.

While less treacherou­s, potholes and pavement cracks have become a serious problem in South Lake Tahoe on both local streets and Highway 50. Moisture, the freezing and thawing of the pavement, snowplows and traffic have made some stretches of roadway an obstacle course and a rough ride.

Estrada’s aunt was driving on a busy stretch of Highway 50 when her Audi slammed into a deep pothole and flattened the two right tires.

“The potholes are bad,” Estrada said. “Some of them are huge.”

While the snowfall has generated complaints, it still has fans, including skiers and snowboarde­rs and those who appreciate the beauty of the snowy peaks.

Debbie Johansson, who lives four days a week in South Lake Tahoe and three in Davis, is among them.

“I love it,” she said. “Come on. We’ve been in a drought for so long.”

 ?? Stephen Lam/The Chronicle ?? A building collapsed due to recent punishing winter storms near Dollar Point on Tuesday.
Stephen Lam/The Chronicle A building collapsed due to recent punishing winter storms near Dollar Point on Tuesday.

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