Interstate closures, avalanche alerts, and gale-force winds as storm strikes region with up to 10ft of snow.
Interstate closures, avalanche alerts, and gale-force winds as storm strikes region with up to 10ft of snow.

Sierra Nevada gripped by powerful blizzard: thousands without power

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Interstate closures, avalanche alerts, and gale-force winds as storm strikes region with up to 10ft of snow.

Overnight Fury

A formidable blizzard swept through the Sierra Nevada overnight into Saturday, marking the season’s most significant storm yet. 

The tempestuous weather led to the shutdown of a lengthy section of Interstate 80 in California and wreaked havoc with gusty winds and heavy rainfall in lower elevations, resulting in widespread power outages affecting tens of thousands of customers.

Massive Snowfall Predicted

Forecasts predict up to 10 feet (3 meters) of snow in certain areas, with the National Weather Service (NWS) warning of extensive blowing snow, creating hazardous travel conditions ranging from extremely dangerous to impossible. 

Also read: February heatwave sweeps Central and Northern US

The Sierra Nevada bore the brunt of the onslaught, experiencing snowfall rates exceeding 3 inches (7 cm) per hour and wind gusts surpassing 100 mph (160 km/h).

Avalanche Threat Looms

The NWS issued a cautionary statement about “high to extreme avalanche danger” in the backcountry throughout the central Sierra, including the greater Lake Tahoe area, lasting until Sunday evening. 

The combination of heavy snowfall and strong winds amplifies the risk of avalanches, heightening concerns for safety.

Interstate Shutdown

California authorities took preemptive measures by closing down a 100-mile (160 km) stretch of Interstate 80 due to “spin outs, high winds, and low visibility.” 

The closure, extending from the California-Nevada border near Reno to near Emigrant Gap, California, left travelers stranded with no estimated time for the freeway’s reopening.

Power Outages and Tornado Damage

Pacific Gas & Electric reported widespread power outages affecting approximately 33,000 households and businesses as of Saturday morning. 

Meanwhile, a tornado touched down in Madera County on Friday afternoon, causing damage to an elementary school, further exacerbating the region’s challenges.

Ski Resorts Affected

Several ski resorts shut down operations on Friday, with plans to remain closed on Saturday to manage the aftermath of the storm. 

While some aimed to reopen on Sunday, decisions were pending based on Saturday morning updates. 

Palisades Tahoe, for instance, intended to reopen select slopes but announced closures due to heavy snowfall and high winds.

Storm’s Origin and Impac

The storm, which commenced its onslaught on Thursday, is accompanied by a blizzard warning spanning a 300-mile (482 km) stretch of the mountains, leaving residents and travelers grappling with its relentless fury. 

Despite the perilous conditions, some ski enthusiasts rushed to the mountains ahead of the storm, eager to embrace the wintry landscape.

Jean Martin

Jean Martin, a seasoned Correspondent Author at USA Guardian Magazine, specializes in transforming complex subjects into engaging narratives. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to truth, her work spans politics, culture, and technology, enriching the magazine's diverse content. Jean's reporting not only informs but also inspires readers, showcasing her belief in journalism's power to drive change.

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