Weakening wind but more snow after massive blizzard in the Sierra Nevada

TRUCKEE, California — Keep the shovels ready: A powerful snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada mountains is expected to taper off Sunday, but more heavy snow is on the way.

The National Weather Service said conditions would improve as winds weakened Sunday, but precipitation would return quickly, with heavy snow in some areas and rainfall in others. That wasn’t much of a breakthrough after a multi-day storm that one meteorologist called “as bad as it gets,” closing a major east-west highway in Northern California, closing ski areas and leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power.

Sunday morning, Pacific Gas & Electric had restored power to nearly 7,000 customers in California, while NV Energy had reduced its numbers to about 1,000 homes and businesses. And some ski areas planned to reopen, albeit with delayed start times and limited operations.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Sierra at Tahoe officials wrote on the resort’s website.

Palisades Tahoe, the largest resort on the north side of Lake Tahoe and site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, closed all chairlifts Saturday due to snow, wind and poor visibility. It planned to reopen late Sunday morning after an estimated 1.5 meters of snow fell on the upper mountain on Saturday evening.

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

More than 10 feet of snow was expected at higher elevations, National Weather Service meteorologist William Churchill said Saturday, creating a “life-threatening concern” for Lake Tahoe residents and blocking travel on the east-west highway. He called the storm an “extreme snowstorm” for the Sierra Nevada, but said he did not expect any records to be broken.

“It’s certainly as bad as it can be in terms of the amount of snow and the wind,” Churchill said. “It doesn’t get much worse than that.”

The storm began moving into the region on Thursday. A blizzard warning through Sunday morning covered a 300-mile (480-kilometer) stretch of the mountains. A second, weaker storm is expected to bring another 3 to 2 feet of snow to the region between Monday and Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service office in Sacramento.

Near Lake Tahoe, Alibi Ale Works brewpub and restaurant was one of the few businesses open Saturday. Bartender Thomas Petkanas said about a meter of snow had fallen by midday and customers were shaking off the snow as they arrived.

“It’s snowing pretty hard there, the wind is blowing really hard and the power is out in about half of the city,” Petkanas said by phone.

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.

In Truckee, California, veteran snowplow driver Kyle Frankland said several pieces of his equipment broke while clearing wet snow from piles of powder.

“I have been working in Truckee for 44 years. This is a pretty good storm,” Frankland said. “It’s not a record by any means, but it’s a good storm.”


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