United States

Major Northern California Highway Shut Down Amid Ongoing Blizzard In Sierra Nevada

A major highway was closed and ski resorts were shut down Sunday as the effects of a powerful blizzard continued to cause problems across the Sierra Nevada, and forecasters warned that more heavy snow was on the way for Northern California.

A powerful blizzard hit the Sierra Nevada as the biggest storm of the season, shutting down a long stretch of Interstate 80 in California and leaving tens of thousands without power. Photo: AP

A powerful blizzard wreaked havoc across the Sierra Nevada region, leading to the closure of a major highway and ski resorts on Sunday. The effects of the blizzard persisted, causing severe disruptions, with forecasters warning of more heavy snowfall for Northern California.

Interstate 80, crucial for transportation west and north of Lake Tahoe, became impassable due to blowing snow accumulating in lanes, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). No estimate was provided for reopening these sections of the highway, exacerbating travel challenges in the area.

The CHP office in South Lake Tahoe issued a stern warning to motorists, emphasizing the requirement for tire chains to enhance traction on mountain routes. The warning, shared online along with an image of a stranded big rig amidst whiteout conditions, highlighted the dangers of attempting to bypass chain control.

"Trying to bypass chain control, no no no!!" the agency cautioned, urging drivers to prioritize safety over convenience.

The National Weather Service office in Sacramento issued blizzard warnings for areas above 6,500 feet and winter storm warnings for lower elevations, forecasting up to 2 feet of additional snowfall. Travel in mountainous areas was strongly discouraged due to hazardous conditions.

The multiday storm caused traffic congestion, closures on various roadways, and the shutdown of ski resorts, leaving thousands without power in homes and businesses. Although power restoration efforts were underway, thousands of customers remained affected.

Palisades Tahoe, a prominent ski resort at the north end of Lake Tahoe, suspended operations for a second consecutive day due to adverse weather conditions. With a substantial snowfall accumulation reported, the resort anticipated a prolonged recovery period.

Residents in affected areas grappled with the relentless snowfall, resorting to unconventional measures to cope. Kevin Dupui, a Truckee resident, remarked on the overwhelming snow accumulation, indicating the futility of attempting to clear it.

Despite initial skepticism about the severity of the storm, Truckee residents like Jenelle Potvin attested to its intensity, describing it as a full-fledged blizzard. The surreal scenes of snowmobiling and skiing in the streets highlighted the abrupt transition from normalcy to extreme weather conditions.

In the eastern Sierra, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area remained closed as ski patrol faced challenges due to high winds impeding avalanche mitigation efforts. The region experienced significant snowfall, with more forecasted in the coming days.

While the storm was dubbed an "extreme blizzard" for the Sierra Nevada by meteorologists, no records were expected to be broken. A secondary storm was forecasted to bring further precipitation between Monday and Wednesday, prolonging the weather-related disruptions.

Authorities shut down a significant stretch of I-80, the primary route between Reno and Sacramento, citing spinouts, high winds, and poor visibility. The closure added to the logistical complications, with no clear timeline for reopening.

Despite the challenges posed by the blizzard, locals like Rudy Islas maintained a resilient outlook, considering the snowfall routine for the region. Their preparedness and familiarity with such conditions helped mitigate the impact on daily life.