Winter storm hits western US, bringing heavy snowfall to northern California: NPR
RENO, Nevada – A winter storm packing powerful winds, heavy rain and potentially several feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada closed mountain highways, toppled trees and triggered flood watches and avalanche warnings on Saturday from the northern California coast at Lake Tahoe.
More than 250 miles (400 kilometers) of the Sierra remained under a winter storm warning at least through Sunday evening or early Monday from north of Reno to south of Yosemite National Park.
Up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) of snow is expected by the end of the weekend in the high elevations around Lake Tahoe, and up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in the steepest parts. remote areas of the Sierra to the north and south.
A 70-mile (112 kilometer) stretch of eastbound U.S. Interstate 80 was closed ‘due to zero visibility’ from Colfax, Calif., to the Nevada state line, said transport officials. Chains were needed on much of the rest of I-80 in the mountains from Reno to Sacramento.
A section of California Highway 89 was also closed due to heavy snowfall between Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Highway Patrol said.
The U.S. Forest Service issued a backcountry avalanche warning in the mountains west of Lake Tahoe where it said “several feet of fresh snow and strong winds will bring dangerous avalanche conditions” .
Wind gusts of up to 80 km/h (50 mph) that sent trees into Sonoma County homes on Saturday could reach 160 km/h (100 mph) over Sierra ridges by early Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
Heavy rain was forecast throughout the weekend from San Francisco to the Sierra Ridge with up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) in the Bay Area and up to 5 inches (13 cm) in Grass Valley northeast of Sacramento.
The Weather Service issued a flash flood warning on Saturday when inches of rain fell on scorch scars left by wildfires south of Monterey and further south of Big Sur.
More than 30,000 customers were without power in the Sacramento area at one point Saturday morning, but it was restored to all but a few hundred by the end of the day. The drivers and passengers of five cars that had been trapped between downed power lines escaped unharmed, the Sacramento Bee reported.
San Francisco Bay Area officials reported power outages and fallen trees, some of which damaged cars and homes. In Monte Rio, a small town along the Russian River in Sonoma County, firefighters responded to multiple reports of downed trees crashing into homes in 50 mph gusts of wind.
Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman told KRON-TV four different trees damaged homes in the area and no injuries were reported.
“It’s our first big storm, we’ve had several years of drought and all these trees were dry. Now they’re filling up with water and starting to topple over,” Baxman told the TV station.
In the Sierra, about 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow had already fallen Saturday afternoon at the Mammoth Mountain ski resort south of Yosemite where more than 10 feet (3 meters) of snow has been recorded since early November.
“It just seems like every week or so another major storm comes along,” station spokeswoman Lauren Burke said.
Up to 18 to 28 inches (45 to 71 centimeters) of snow was forecast throughout the weekend at lake level, and up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) at elevations above 7,000 feet ( 2,133 meters) with winds of 50 mph (80 km/h) and gusts up to 100 mph (160 km/h).
On the eastern slope of the Sierra, a winter weather advisory is issued from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. for Reno, Sparks and Carson City, with snowfall amounts of 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm) over valley bottoms and up to 8 inches (20 cm) above 5,000 feet (1,524 meters).