The Blizzard of 2023
Updated: Mar 5
An Olympic Valley, CA Resident's Experience
Lake Tahoe received more than 12 feet of snow in the last week of February 2023. With more snow falling, this could possibly be Tahoe's biggest winter ever recorded.
Here’s one Olympic Valley, CA resident's first-hand account of this extreme weather ending in an epic blizzard, and how the community pulled through it.
The winds started picking up early on Monday, February 27th. Just as weather reports predicted - at precisely 11am - the sky turned dark gray and the roads became hazardous.
By Monday night the winds were howling, sending snow chaotically in every direction.
"Blizzard conditions could produce life threatening situations," according to the National Weather Service. We took these warnings seriously, and thankfully, so did others.
Walkways like the one above, running along Olympic Valley, became obscured by snowdrifts more than 14 feet high. The Olympic Valley Post Office became a ski-in, ski-out.
At about 7pm on Tuesday, an avalanche around 200 yards wide and 25 feet deep slammed through an occupied apartment building in Olympic Valley, engulfing the bottom two stories of a three-story building. Fortunately, there were no injuries as local fire crews were fast on the scene, making sure all occupants evacuated safely.
By Wednesday, at 7:42am the tail end of the blizzard whipped through the Valley with one last snap. Like a curtain being pulled away, the gray transitioned to blue and daylight poured back into our Valley.
We woke up to massive snow drifts. Bus stops in the Valley carried unprecedented and unimaginable weight from the layer cake-like snow above, known here as Sierra Cement.
Multi-million dollar homes were buried in it too. No mercy for the wealthy!
Big cats and little cats did their thing, clearing the way, making roads and walkways accessible. The image below is one such machine on a mountain of snow, level with a second floor balcony!
Heavy machines, like the one below, carved walls in snow drifts reaching over 15 feet high along the roads, creating a giant maze through our community.
Walkways along the Valley and Lake, like the one pictured below, in Tahoe City, were made accessible before most people woke up on Wednesday morning, March 1st.
During the blizzard, massive snow cornices, (the overhanging edge of snow), formed on rooftops. Cornices are particularly vulnerable to collapse when the sun's out and temperatures rise becoming a real threat to anyone below. The sun was out on Wednesday afternoon, and temperatures were rising. Imagine the weight of this falling on you!
But, like every blizzard, every storm, and every challenge that passes through Lake Tahoe, the community pulled together.
And as if the blizzard wasn't enough visual stimulation for two days, later that night another unusual phenomenon took place in Olympic Valley. At first it looked like a SnowCat grooming the hill. But the two "headlights" were high over the top of Tram Face, as can be seen in the video below.
In fact, the two lights staring down on us from over the hill were Jupiter and Venus, about half a degree apart from one another. The two planets had been moving closer and closer to one another over the past few weeks. According to NASA, Wednesday, March 1st, 2023 was the closest the pair would get in this cycle.
Olympic Valley is a vortex of weather, wonder and natural phenomenon. Experiencing the blizzard below and planets above, as well as the generosity of our neighbors, has been something of divine expression, something to behold.
People helped each other. From the Sheriff's Office, and Fire Departments, to the neighborhoods, the love and concern for others remains rock solid in Lake Tahoe.
Hello! I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident. I’m a teacher, freelance writer, and photographer. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, please share with others. I value your attention, it means a lot to me and it helps others see the story. If you're interested in any photos in this post, or in my gallery: click here, let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email: firstname.lastname@example.org