UNITED STATES NEWS

Blizzard warning, avalanche watch as storm packing up to 10 feet of snow moves into Sierra Nevada

Feb 28, 2024, 10:33 PM | Updated: Feb 29, 2024, 6:04 pm

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The most powerful Pacific storm of the season started barreling into the Sierra Nevada on Thursday, packing multiple feet of snow and dangerous winds that forecasters say will create blizzard conditions likely to close major highways and trigger power outages into the weekend.

Much of the Sierra Nevada was under a blizzard warning stretching through Sunday, with the biggest effects expected Friday afternoon into Saturday.

As much as 10 feet (3 meters) of snow is possible in the mountains around Lake Tahoe by the weekend, with 3 to 6 feet (.9 to 1.8 meters) in the communities on the lake’s shores and more than a foot (30 centimeters) possible in the valleys on the Sierra’s eastern front, including Reno, the National Weather Service said.

Winds are expected to gust in excess of 115 mph (185 kph) over Sierra ridgetops, and 70 mph (113 kph) at lower elevations, it said.

The weather service in Reno said in its updated forecast as evening approached on Thursday it has seen no new scenarios to suggest a weakening of the storm: “Snow amounts have increased, if that is even possible.”

Backcountry avalanche warnings were in place around Lake Tahoe, as well as areas around Yosemite National Park stretching down to Mammoth Lakes.

“Very dangerous avalanche conditions are expected from Friday afternoon through Sunday,” the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center in Mammoth Lakes said.

The California Highway Patrol imposed travel restrictions on a long stretch of Interstate 80 between Reno and Sacramento, requiring drivers to put chains on their tires. A stretch of the highway was closed for hours at midday Thursday while crews cleared the wreckage of a semi-trailer truck that overturned near Truckee, California.

“Your safe travel window is over in the Sierra,” the weather service in Reno posted on social media. “Best to hunker down where you are.”

The blizzard warning covers a 300-mile (482-kilometer) stretch of the Sierra from north of Lake Tahoe to south of Yosemite National Park effective until 10 a.m. Sunday.

“This will be a legitimate blizzard,” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said during an online briefing Thursday. “Really true blizzard conditions with multiple feet of snow and very strong winds, the potential for power outages and the fact that roads probably aren’t going to be cleared as quickly or as effectively as they normally would be even during a significant winter storm.”

On the bright side, California water officials said the storm should provide a much-needed shot in the arm to the Sierra snowpack, which is vital to the state’s water supplies and sits well below normal so far this season.

Palisades Tahoe ski resort tweeted that the big dump expected over the weekend on top of 8 feet of snow in February should allow them to keep the slopes open through Memorial Day. But it warned blizzard conditions are likely to force temporary closures off and on through the weekend.

Todd Cummings decided to drive from Santa Cruz to the Lake Tahoe area ahead of the storm with plans to lay low during the blizzard and then hit the slopes.

“When a storm comes in, people have a tough time getting there, so there’s sometimes less crowds on the mountains and there is untracked, fresh snow that it’s super light and you float on it. It’s fantastic!” he said.

Some remained skeptical it will be as bad as predicted.

Richard Cunningham said he has heard before about forecasts for the storm of the century that didn’t materialize since he moved from Las Vegas to Reno in 1997.

“Same story, different day,” he said. “Sometimes it doesn’t even snow.”

But that was before blue skies gave way to clouds and gusty winds that blew the roof off a shed east of Reno Thursday afternoon.

The lead scientist at a snow lab atop the Sierra said it is possible they could break their modern-day record of about 3.5 feet (1 meter) of snow in a single day from back in 1989.

“It’s a very serious storm for us,” Andrew Schwartz said Wednesday from UC-Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab, founded in 1946 in Soda Springs, California, northwest of Lake Tahoe.

Howie Nave, a radio DJ and stand-up comedian in South Lake Tahoe, said some people may not have been taking the storm seriously earlier in the week because dire forecasts of potentially heavy storms have not materialized several times this winter.

“There were times when I was expecting a Saint Bernard, but you gave me a Chihuahua,” Nave said about the weather forecasters.

But “everybody’s talking about the storm up here,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve had a blizzard warning.”

California Department of Water resources officials said Thursday that the Sierra Nevada snowpack stood at 80% of average to date but only 70% of the typical April 1 peak.

“The results today show just how critical this upcoming month is going to be in terms of our water supply outlook for the upcoming year,” said hydrometeorologist Angelique Fabbiani-Leon in a briefing at Phillips Station, a snowpack-measuring location south of Lake Tahoe.

___

Associated Press reporter John Antczak contributed to this report from Los Angeles. Rodriguez reported from San Francisco.

United States News

President Joe Biden speaks to the media as he arrives to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force B...

Associated Press

President Joe Biden says it was a ‘mistake’ to say he wanted to put a ‘bull’s-eye’ on Donald Trump

Biden told NBC News Monday that it was a “mistake” to put a “bull's-eye” on Trump, but argued that Trump's rhetoric was more incendiary.

17 minutes ago

Associated Press

Border arrests plunge 29% in June to the lowest of Biden’s presidency as asylum halt takes hold

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Arrests for illegally crossing the border from Mexico plunged 29% in June, the lowest month of Joe Biden’s presidency, according to figures released Monday that provide another window on the impact of a new rule to temporarily suspend asylum. Arrests totaled 83,536 in June, down from 117,901 in May to mark […]

28 minutes ago

FILE - People walk past May Hall, the main administrative building at Dickinson State University in...

Associated Press

President of Dickinson State University in North Dakota resigns after nursing faculty quit

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — The president of Dickinson State University in North Dakota announced his resignation on Monday, days after the school’s nursing faculty quit. In a video, Steve Easton announced his departure and acknowledged “turmoil between some in the faculty and the administration.” Seven faculty members resigned Wednesday, KFYR-TV reported. Former Assistant Professor of […]

41 minutes ago

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: A look at false claims around the assassination attempt on former President Trump

The assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection, is fueling a range of false claims and conspiracy theories as authorities seek information about the 20-year-old shooter’s background and motive, how he obtained the AR-style rifle he fired at Trump and security at the venue that failed to stop the shooting. […]

58 minutes ago

FILE - Christina Osborn and her children, Alexander Osborn and Bella Araiza, visit a makeshift memo...

Associated Press

Judge clears way for demolition of Texas church where 26 people were killed in 2017 shooting

FLORESVILLE, Texas (AP) — A judge on Monday cleared the way for the demolition of the small Texas church in Sutherland Springs where a gunman killed more than two dozen worshippers in 2017 in what remains the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. Following the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the church […]

1 hour ago

RNC Chair Michael Whatley speaks during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, 2024, i...

Associated Press

Outside RNC, conservative group defends its Project 2025 guidebook as Democrats ramp up attacks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — At the edge of the cordoned-off perimeter around the Republican National Convention on Monday, hundreds of conservatives filed into the ornate home of the Milwaukee Symphony to hear a parade of luminaries talk policy and Project 2025. Project 2025 is the term for the Heritage Foundation’s nearly 1,000-page handbook for the next […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Blizzard warning, avalanche watch as storm packing up to 10 feet of snow moves into Sierra Nevada