More mountain snow expected even as powerful blizzard moves out of Northern California

TRUCKEE, California — A powerful snowstorm that closed highways and ski resorts had moved largely through the Sierra Nevada by early Monday, but forecasters warned that more snow was on the way in the mountains of Northern California.

Portions of Interstate 80 west and north of Lake Tahoe were still closed late Sunday, with no estimate for reopening, the California Highway Patrol said.

The CHP office in South Lake Tahoe warned motorists that snow chains for better traction are needed on routes through the mountains, where more than 7 feet of snow fell this weekend.

Blizzard warnings had largely expired, but scattered thunderstorms were likely and another 2 feet of snow was possible at higher elevations, the National Weather Service office in Sacramento said.

“Mountain trips are HIGHLY discouraged!” the office warned.

The multi-day storm caused traffic jams and closures on I-80 and many other roads, closed ski areas for two days and left thousands of homes and businesses without power.

By Sunday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric had restored power to nearly 4,400 customers in Northern California, while NV Energy had reduced outages to about 1,000 homes and businesses across the state line in Nevada.

Palisades Tahoe, the largest resort on the north side of the lake, was among a number of ski mountains that closed most or all chairlifts for a second day in a row Sunday due to snow, wind and poor visibility. Palisades reported a three-day snowfall total of 6 feet, with more falling.

“We will be digging for the foreseeable future,” officials said on the resort’s blog.

Kevin Dupui, who lives in Truckee, just northwest of Lake Tahoe, said his snow blower broke down, but that doesn’t really matter because there’s nowhere to put all the snow anyway. “We’re just moving it,” he said Sunday.

Dupui said residents and tourists seem to be mostly heeding warnings to stay home. “The roads haven’t been that safe, so we don’t really want people driving around,” he said.

Another Truckee resident, Jenelle Potvin, said some cynical residents initially thought “a little too much hype” had been made about the impending storm. But then the steady snow started Friday evening.

“It was definitely a snowstorm. And we woke up yesterday to a lot of snow and it never stopped,” Potvin said Sunday. Her neighbors were snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the street.

In the Eastern Sierra, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area was closed Sunday because winds of up to 70 miles per hour made it too difficult for ski patrollers to complete avalanche response, the resort said. More than a meter of snow fell in three days, with more to come.

Weather Service meteorologist William Churchill called the storm an “extreme snowstorm” for the Sierra Nevada on Saturday, but said he did not expect any records to be broken.

The storm began moving into the region on Thursday. A widespread blizzard warning through Sunday morning covered a 300-mile (480-kilometer) stretch of the mountains. A second, weaker storm was forecast to bring additional rain and snow between Monday and Wednesday, forecasters said.

Authorities in California closed 100 miles of I-80, the main route between Reno and Sacramento, on Friday due to “spinouts, high winds and poor visibility.” There was no estimate for when the highway would reopen from the California-Nevada border west of Reno to near Emigrant Gap, California.

Rudy Islas spent about 40 minutes cleaning up his car Sunday morning before heading to work at a coffee shop in Truckee. Neither he nor his customers were shocked by the snow, he said.

“To be honest, if you’re a local, it’s not that big of a deal,” he said. “I think a lot of people are used to the snow and are preparing for it.”


Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporters Ken Ritter in Las Vegas; Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada; Janie Har in San Francisco; Julie Walker in New York; and Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed.