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

Rong-Gong Lin II and Melody Petersen, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

LOS ANGELES — The most powerful California blizzard of the season pounded the Sierra Nevada with gusts of up to 190 mph, while heavy snow on Saturday forced the closure of key roads to the Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain areas.

The main road to Mammoth Mountain ski resort, Highway 395, was shutdown in both directions — to the south, toward Southern California, and to the north, toward Reno, Nevada. The 75-mile stretch was closed from just northwest of Bishop in Inyo County to Bridgeport in Mono County, “due to multiple spinouts and collisions, as well as whiteout conditions,” the California Department of Transportation said.

At 6 a.m. Saturday, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area reported it had received almost 2 feet of snow in some places. Two hours later, the resort said it was closing down for the day because of “extremely strong winds and blizzard conditions.”

A 76-mile stretch of Interstate 80 was shut down Saturday between Colfax and the Nevada state line. The Caltrans office in Kingvale, about 12 miles west of Truckee, has lost power, leading to the failure of its cameras and message boards.

“At this point, we are only allowing first responders and Caltrans employees on I-80. No essential big rigs, no ski resort employees,” Caltrans said on social media.

The highway was a mess. 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. Crews worked on removing vehicles left abandoned on Interstate 80 after motorists were rescued.

A day earlier, multiple vehicles spun out and a big rig jackknifed.

“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.


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