A winter storm hits the Sierra Nevada, prompting an avalanche warning

A winter storm packing strong winds and potentially several feet of snow blew into the Sierra Nevada on Saturday, causing thousands of power outages in California, closing a mountain highway near Lake Tahoe and prompting an avalanche warning across the province. The storm is expected to bring up to 4 feet of snow to the upper elevations around Lake Tahoe by Monday morning, the National Weather Service said.

A 250-mile stretch of the Sierra from north of Reno to south of Yosemite National Park was under a winter storm warning until at least Sunday.

“Travel will be very difficult to impossible in daylight conditions,” he said meteorological service said in Reno, where the rain began to fall Saturday.

A flood warning was in effect from Sacramento to the California coast near San Francisco.

This Caltrans traffic camera image shows snowy conditions on the California SR-89 Snowman in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California, Dec. 10, 2022.
This Caltrans traffic camera image shows snowy conditions on the California SR-89 Snowman in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California, Dec. 10, 2022.

Caltrans via AP

The storm will hit the California coast in the southwest this weekend with “heavy to heavy rainfall along coastal areas of the Golden State and widespread heavy snow from the Sierra to much of the Intermountain West,” the National Weather Service said in statement. Excessive rainfall will affect the central California coast on Saturday and Southern California around the greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas on Sunday.

The US Forest Service issued an avalanche warning in the mountains west of Lake Tahoe, where it said “several feet of new snow and high winds will lead to dangerous avalanche conditions.”

A section of California Highway 89 was closed due to heavy snow between Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe, Calif., the Highway Patrol said. Interstate 80 between Reno and Sacramento remained open, but tire chains were required for most vehicles.

More than 30,000 customers were without power in the Sacramento area at one point Saturday morning. It was restored to all but about 3300 by noon. But forecasters warned that wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour could bring down tree limbs and power lines later in the day.

About 10 inches of snow had already fallen at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort south of Yosemite, which has seen more than 10 feet of snow since early November.

“It just seems like every week there’s a new big storm coming,” said resort spokeswoman Lauren Burke.

A storm warning extends through Sunday for most of the Sierra and doesn’t expire until Monday around Tahoe.

Up to 18 to 28 inches of snow is forecast through the weekend at lake level and up to 4 feet at elevations above 7,000 feet with winds of 50 mph and gusts of up to 100 mph.

On the eastern slope of the Sierra, a winter weather advisory is in effect from 10 p.m. Saturday until 10 a.m. for Reno, Sparks and Carson City, with snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches in the valley floor and up to 8 inches above 5,000 feet .

The system will develop into a “large-scale and significant storm early next week” across the central and southern US, bringing heavy snow, rain and severe weather, according to the weather service. Snow is expected to spread into the mountains of the central Rockies and Arizona on Sunday, with 6 to 12 inches total expected by early Monday morning, the weather service said.

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