Powerful California blizzard shuts Tahoe, Mammoth roads; 190-mph winds reported

Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

SAN FRANCISCO — The most powerful California blizzard of the winter sent gusts of up to 190 mph to the Sierra Nevada, and heavy snow and strong winds forced officials to shut some roads in the Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain areas.

Roads that were forced to shut overnight into Saturday morning included a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 80 between Drum Forebay and the Nevada state line and a 50-mile stretch of Highway 395 north of Mammoth Lakes to Bridgeport.

Highway 395 between Mammoth Lakes and Southern California remained open as of Saturday morning, but weather conditions were dicey because of strong winds, as well as heavy rain in some areas. On Friday afternoon, a truck tipped over because of high winds in the Olancha area of Inyo County, the California Highway Patrol said.

On Interstate 80 over the Sierra on Friday, multiple vehicles spun out and a big rig jackknifed. At one point overnight, "we had a mass amount of vehicles over Donner Summit and it took several hours for emergency vehicles and tow trucks to reach motorists," the California Highway Patrol office in Truckee said.

"At one point, emergency personnel and tow trucks had a difficult time getting to motorists due to blizzard conditions," the CHP said. Officials will still need to remove vehicles left abandoned on Interstate 80 after motorists were rescued.

"We suggest you stay home," the CHP added. "Stay warm and don't put yourself and your family in a dangerous position."


A gust of 190 mph was detected Friday night at Palisades Tahoe at an elevation of 8,700 feet, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters warned of extreme avalanche danger across the greater Tahoe region in the Sierra backcountry through Sunday afternoon.

Around Mammoth Mountain in Mono County, peak winds clocked in at 114 mph Friday afternoon.

The record in California for the fastest wind gust verified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was 199 mph on Feb. 20, 2017, at Ward Mountain, also known as Ward Peak, at Palisades Tahoe.

Forecasters urged people to stay where they are unless there's an emergency, and warned that it could take time for plows to dig out communities. Meteorologists say the storm, which may dump up to 12 feet of snowfall in the highest elevations of California's mightiest mountain range by Sunday, could result in one of the top 10 snowiest days of the central Sierra since 1970.


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