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Tahoe apartment building ‘engulfed’ by avalanche

A major avalanche near Lake Tahoe led to the evacuation of a 70-unit apartment building. | Courtesy of Placer County Sheriff's Department

The fierce winter weather that has seen snow fall in the Bay Area and shuttered Yosemite National Park indefinitely is also leading to major avalanches across the state.

One of the most striking examples was an avalanche that struck a three-story apartment building in Olympic Valley at 400 Shirley Canyon Road near Lake Tahoe on Tuesday night.

The avalanche spanned 200 yards wide, sunk to a depth of 25 feet and engulfed the bottom two stories of the building, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Department.

Luckily, the fewer than a dozen occupants of the apartment complex were not injured and were evacuated with the help of local fire crews, according to Angela Musallam, the public information officer for the Sheriff's Department.

Olympic Valley is a small unincorporated resort community near Lake Tahoe that hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1960.

K-9 units were used in rescue efforts after an avalanche pummeled around 100 homes in Olympic Valley. | Courtesy Placer County Sheriff's Department.

Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue and Palisades Ski Patrol also assisted with the rescue, using K-9 units to search for people.

At the time, only four units out of the 70 in the building were occupied; however, the avalanches also impacted dozens of nearby residences.

Musallam said it has been several years since an avalanche of this nature has impacted so many homes.

The timing of when residents can return to their homes is still being determined. County building inspectors are scheduled to visit the properties over the next few days and check on potential structural issues or if major repairs are required.

Nearby areas have also been evacuated due to heightened avalanche risk including:

  • Shirley Canyon Road to Granite Chief Road
  • Granite Chief Road
  • Sandy Way from Wayne Road to Navajo Court
  • Summit Peak Road
  • Summer Place

A temporary evacuation center has been opened by Placer County officials at the Community Recreation Center on 10981 Truckee Way in Truckee for those impacted by the orders.

Kevin Truong can be reached at