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Blizzard warning extended, roads impassable as Tahoe tries to dig out

Will McCarthy, Bay Area News Group on

Published in News & Features

A blizzard warning has been extended until 4 a.m. Monday as mountain communities in the Sierra Nevada attempt to dig out from the biggest snowstorm of the year.

The Reno National Weather Service originally expected its warning to lapse at 10 a.m. Sunday, but the storm has persisted longer than expected. Although meteorologists say the early models held up pretty well in terms of predicting intensity, the storm is not yet over.

“We’re still going to see those strong winds continue through tonight as well as additional snow showers,” said Justin Collins, a meteorologist with the Reno National Weather Service.

Forecasters are highly discouraging mountain travel, which they are calling “extremely dangerous to impossible.”

Interstate 80 is closed indefinitely in both directions, with motorists being turned away at the foot of the mountains. A snow slide early Sunday morning closed U.S. Highway 50 at Meyers Road for about an hour after the small avalanche buried the road under a few feet of snow.

“Even where roads aren’t closed, traffic can still be hazardous with all this snow and wind,” said Sarah Purdue, a meteorologist with NWS Sacramento.

 

Snow totals across the mountains have so far met or exceeded expectations, and mountain communities that were just a month ago at a serious snow deficit are now all but buried.

The Soda Springs Cal Trans station on Sunday Morning was reporting 76 inches of snow over a 72-hour period. Yuba Pass was at 72 inches, Tahoe/Donner 62, and Mount Rose topped 80 inches.

On the Western slope, an additional 1 to 2 feet of snow are expected above 4,000 feet until midnight Sunday, with high gusts of wind especially across the peaks. After a brief break in the weather late Monday morning, another storm may bring yet another foot or two of snow by Monday afternoon.

Meteorologists say colder air from a system off the Gulf of Alaska brought in more moisture from the Pacific, which contributed to the especially high snow totals.

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