For an unknown reason that, in hindsight, may have been a premonition, I woke up at 1:30 a.m. in the dark hours of Oct. 6. As I closed my eyes and tried to fall back asleep, I was suddenly startled by a loud crack as the house shook for a brief, violent second. I sat straight up in bed and grabbed my husband’s arm. He was now awake too. “Hold on,” he said. “There could be another one.”

The 2.9 earthquake that occurred 4 miles west of Tahoe Vista that Monday morning was just one of many ways in recent days that Mother Nature showed the Tahoe area who is boss. In a matter of weeks, Tahoe/Truckee residents had lived through the threat of one of California’s worst wildfires in history knocking on our back door and air so thick with smoke that on some days outdoor play was not only undesirable but dangerous (IRONMAN being cancelled as a case in point). When the fire finally came under control and the smoke dissipated, Tahoe woke up to an early season snowfall on Sept. 27.

Fire, smoke, snow, earthquake. Is this just what comes with living in the mountains, or is something else afoot? Of course, anyone who has lived in Tahoe for a few years has experienced each of these acts of nature, but never back-to-back like in these past few weeks. Obviously, to the four natural phenomena listed above we must add another one that is on everyone’s minds — drought. After three years of low precipitation, Lake Tahoe is barely holding above its natural rim and hardly any water is flowing into the Truckee River, which is so shallow in some sections you would be hard-pressed to submerge your feet. In this issue we explore how the drought is impacting the Truckee River (here) and the ways in which man has tried to harness the river’s life-giving waters for his own purposes, often with unintended and near-sighted consequences (here).


Whether you believe the natural events we are experiencing are a result of climate change or just the Earth’s normal fidgeting, we can all agree on one thing: A few prayers to the Snow Gods to bless us with an abundant winter — not just for Tahoe, but all of California and the West — couldn’t hurt.


  • Melissa Siig

    Melissa Siig ditched international politics in Washington, D.C. in 2001 to move to Tahoe, where she quickly found her true calling — journalism. She has written for regional and national publications, and enjoys writing about community issues and quirky human interest stories. When not at her keyboard, she is busy wrangling her three children, co-running Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, or playing outside.

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