Extreme blizzard hits California, Nevada, Traps Travelers on Mountain Interstate


The National Weather Service in Sacramento CA reported Sunday on their Facebook page that the Blizzard that started on Friday continues now into Monday and possibly Tuesday:

A Blizzard Warning remains in effect until Midnight tonight for areas above 6500 ft. Elsewhere, a Winter Storm Warning is now in effect for elev. above 3000 ft, with another 1-2 ft of snow expected above 4000 ft. More snow Mon-Tue.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times,

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

A rare blizzard warning was extended through Monday morning for the Lake Tahoe area, and until Sunday night for the Mammoth Mountain area. Key roads to Mammoth Mountain from Southern California, and to the northern Tahoe area from Sacramento and Reno, remained shutdown Sunday morning.

Snowfall totals for the storm, published Sunday on the National Weather Service website showed that some places at the peak of the Sierra Nevada such as donner peak received 87 inches of snow since Friday and it is still coming down. As seen in the graphic from NWS below, significant snowfall was seen through most of the Sierra Nevada.

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort measured 87 inches of snowfall over the last 72 hours at summit level.

Other locations in the Sierra Nevada mountain range saw values ranging from just a few inches up to 84 inches at Soda Springs measured at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, posting on Facebook, “Sierra Snow Lab measured 63.6 inches of snowfall over the last 72 hours. 23.8 inches measured over last 24 hours.”

According to Fox 11 TV in Reno NV, not only was it a strong storm with lots of sustained wind and high wind gusts, heavy snow and blowing snow caused motorists to be stranded and closure of Interstate 80 across the Sierra Nevada:

Despite being warned for days, dozens of commuters tried to make it over Donner Summit in the middle blizzard warning and were stranded Friday night.

Interstate 80 in the Sierra remains closed Sunday morning after extreme winter weather conditions prompted the closure at about 5 p.m. on Friday.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) stationed in Truckee CA said in an interview with News4 in Reno: “…there was a mass amount of cars stuck on the summit and it look hours for emergency personnel and tow trucks to reach the drivers. Authorities said at one point, emergency personnel and two trucks even had a difficult time helping stranded motorists due to the blizzard conditions.”

They added in a Facebook post:

DO NOT attempt to drive on I-80 over Donner Summit!! Officers have been responding to stuck motorists all day! Travel conditions are extremely dangerous with zero visibility and blizzard conditions! Stay home and don’t put your life in danger!!

Caltrans cameras for the area show massive amounts of snow and a total road closure as of this writing.

According to the CHP in Truckee, it is expected that reopening Interstate 80 will take several days due to the massive amount of snow that has fallen and may continue to fall through Monday and Tuesday.


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