Video: West, Midwest feel first blast of winter

updated 10/11/2006 9:48:14 AM ET 2006-10-11T13:48:14

An early winter storm system was expected to hit the Northern Plains and Great Lakes region on Wednesday with snow, the second straight day that part of the United States has seen snow showers.

On Tuesday, an unexpected winter-like storm blanketed the South Lake Tahoe area with several inches of snow, disrupting traffic and forcing highway workers to scramble the snowplows.

All roads and passes remained open, but tire chains were required early in the day on highways 88 and 50.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Betsy Legg in South Lake Tahoe said officers had responded to multiple spinouts and minor collisions.

"The snow is more than we'd expected," she said.

The snow began about midnight and was three to six inches deep by midmorning in some areas, according to the National Weather Service.

Snow fell as low as about 5,500 feet but was concentrated in the South Lake Tahoe area, affecting highways 50, 88 and 89. While some snow had been expected, predictions had been that it would remain above 6,200 feet.

The weather system left Truckee and the northern part of Lake Tahoe untouched.

It developed over northern Idaho and was heading southwest before it was expected to move out over the Pacific, then circle back over Southern California this weekend, said Scott McGuire, a National Weather Service spokesman in Reno.

"Once we get this thing out of here today (Tuesday), we're shaping up to have a nice weather pattern through the weekend," McGuire said.

Despite Tuesday's storm, the coming winter is expected to be a little drier and warmer than normal, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian O'Hara said.

"We're not expecting anything like last year, a huge amount of snow," he said.

A weak to moderate El Nino pattern is developing, which is likely to bring slightly wetter weather to Southern California but have little effect in the northern part of the state, O'Hara said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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