Lake Tahoe within 3 feet of legal limit | VailDaily.com
Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@tahoedailytribune.com

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Lake Tahoe within 3 feet of legal limit

In less than five months, the water level at Lake Tahoe has gone from just below its natural rim to within less than 3 feet of the legal limit.

Put another way, approximately 138.65 billion gallons of water have been added to the lake since Oct. 1, according to the National Weather Service. And put yet another way, the amount of water since Oct. 1 is enough to supply the average annual water consumption for 425,506 four-member households.

Buoyed by winter storm that have dumped rain and feet upon feet upon feet of snow in the mountains and at lake level, Tahoe has experienced a greater rise in lake level between Oct. 1, 2016 and Feb. 14, 2017 than the same time period in the previous nine years, according to data from the United States Geological Survey.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, lake level at Tahoe stood at 6,226.22 feet, which is 3.22 feet above the natural rim and about 2.88 feet shy of the lake's legal limit. Since Oct. 1 Lake Tahoe has risen approximately 3 ½ feet.

Comparatively, lake level has increased over that time period only three times in the past nine years. The greatest increase, aside from the most recent one, was between 2010 and 2011. Lake level rose 1.05 feet — going from 6,223.47 feet on Oct. 1, 2010 to 6,224.52 feet on Feb. 14, 2011. From 2015 to 2016, the lake rose .2 feet.

Lake level has not been as high on Feb. 14 since 2012 when the lake was 6,226.82 feet.

Beyond the lake, the snow water equivalent in the Lake Tahoe Basin stood at 209 percent of the median, according to the California/Nevada SNOTEL report.

Although it is still early, the current lake level and snowpack have some eagerly looking to the coming spring and summer

"Shoot, I'm looking forward to it," South Tahoe Standup Paddle's Chris Brackett said of the upcoming summer.

The beaches will likely be smaller than in recent years, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and the lake clarity might be slightly reduced with more runoff, but overall it should be a great summer, Brackett predicted.

As for the more immediate future, a series of storms is expected to impact the region starting Wednesday nigh, according to a special statement Tuesday from the National Weather Service.

"There is potential for strong winds across the Sierra Front Range and along the Highway 395 and Interstate 580 corridor late Wednesday night and Thursday morning, which could affect high-profile vehicles and aviation," according to the statement. "Additional rain and snow will create periods of difficult travel conditions in the Sierra."

Storms could continue rolling into the region through the weekend and into the middle of next week — with the strongest storms coming early next week. The likelihood of precipitation starting this week could lead to more flooding, NWS warns.

"With very wet antecedent conditions in lower elevations and exceptionally deep snowpack at higher elevations, even small amounts of precipitation could create renewed flooding concerns."

Tahoe Lake level over the years

Oct. 1, 2007 — 6,225.70

Feb. 14, 2008 — 6,225.08

– .62 feet

Oct. 1, 2008 — 6,223.69

Feb. 14, 2009 — 6,223.28

– .41 feet

Oct. 1, 2009 — 6,223.17

Feb. 14, 2010 — 6,223.05

– .12 feet

Oct. 1, 2010 — 6,223.47

Feb. 14, 2011 — 6,224.52

+ 1.05 feet

Oct. 1, 2011 — 6,227.71

Feb. 14, 2012 — 6,226.82

– .89 feet

Oct. 1, 2012 — 6,226.03

Feb. 14, 2013 — 6,225.91

– .12 feet

Oct. 1, 2013 — 6,224.53

Feb. 14, 2014 — 6,224.06

– .47 feet

Oct. 1, 2014 — 6,223.15

Feb. 14, 2015 — 6,222.81

– .34 feet

Oct. 1, 2015 — 6,221.89

Feb. 14, 2016 — 6,222.09

+ .2 feet

Oct. 1, 2016 — 6,222.67

Feb. 14, 2017 ­— 6,226.22

+ 3.55