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Storm Barrels Down on Sierra as Blizzard Conditions Close Tahoe Resorts

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A car with headlights on through a snowstorm and roads covered in snow, with a traffic sign above that reads Sacramento and Reno.
Vehicles drive as snow falls north of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains during a powerful winter storm on March 1, 2024, in Truckee, Nevada County. Blizzard warnings have been issued with snowfall of up to 12 feet, and wind gusts over 100 mph expected in some higher elevation locations. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A major snowstorm continues to barrel down on the Sierra Nevada, which the National Weather Service forecasts will produce more than 12 feet of snow at the highest peaks. Since the storm began on Thursday, nearly 2 feet of snow has fallen at the highest elevations.

The National Weather Service advises against traveling in the Sierra until the storm is over. “Dangerous to impossible travel will continue, especially later today into Saturday, with very heavy snow and gusty winds,” said Courtney Carpenter, NWS Sacramento warning coordination meteorologist. “This brings about the potential for prolonged power outages due to snow and the winds that will continue, and we will see gusty winds pick up.”

Carpenter said a few ski resorts clocked wind speeds at more than 100 miles per hour in the Tahoe Area.

“If we take a look at our timing, things begin to pick up again today, especially this afternoon and evening, with heavy snow continuing over the mountains into Saturday,” she said.

Resorts like Palisades Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Sugar Bowl Resort announced they would close for at least Friday.

A person behind their SUV on the side of a snow-covered road ion a snow covered town and street.
A person clears off their car as snow falls north of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains during a powerful winter storm on March 1, 2024, in Truckee, Nevada County. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Other resorts are partially closed. Yosemite National Park would also be closed through Sunday and possibly later.

Last night, 17 inches of snow fell at Palisades Tahoe ski resort, which expects more than 6 feet to fall through Sunday, said Patrick Lacey, public relations manager for the resort.

“You can’t see more than 40 feet in front of you; it is pretty crazy out there,” he said. “This new snow is potentially going to extend our dates. But right now, we are on track to stay open all the way up until Memorial Day. I know many folks have that powder fever and want to ride right now. At the same time, we still have three more months of skiing.”

Storm chaser Michael Steinberg is following the blizzard conditions and was parked near Donner Ski Ranch on Friday afternoon.

“Caltrans and county crews are trying to keep roads clear by plowing them regularly, but snow rates are so high they’re immediately being covered again,” he said. “I’ve seen numerous semi trucks get stranded and buried in deep snow along I-80.”

Susie Kocher lives in South Lake Tahoe in the unincorporated Meyers neighborhood, where the storm has dropped a foot of snow in the past 24 hours. As a forestry adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension, she works from home. She said as much as 8 feet of snow could fall on her area through Sunday.

“This lines up with the idea of a miracle March, where you haven’t had a whole lot of snow, but then all of a sudden, you get a dump, and now you have plenty of snow and water for the rest of California to use,” she said.

Compared to last year, where storm after storm piled snow on the region, Kocher said snowstorms this year have been much more manageable. They’ve sometimes produced less snow than what meteorologists forecast. This storm, which the National Weather Service has said will be the most extreme in several years, could be different. When she went to the store Thursday night, much of the groceries and other necessities were all but gone.

“There was hardly any bread,” she said. “I can tell all my colleagues and my neighbors have been busy stocking up for staying home and hunkering down.”

If she runs out of food, Kocher said she has the option of cross-country skiing to a nearby store.

“I’ve done that in previous winters when I just didn’t want to brave the road,” she said. “It’s not the end of the world. But that’s if the store stays open. If there’s 8 feet of snow in the store parking lot, the employees probably won’t be able to get there either.”

Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe remains open and fully operational, said Mindi Befu, spokesperson for the hospital.

“Currently, Barton is not seeing an increase in emergency medical needs throughout the community; however, we are prepared to provide care to patients throughout the storm and thereafter,” she said.

A snowplow clears snow as a car approaches on a snow covered highway.
A snowplow operates as snow falls north of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains during a powerful winter storm on March 1, 2024, in Truckee, Nevada County. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Meteorologists expected the storm to dissipate by the end of Saturday but now are forecasting blizzard conditions through Sunday and a smaller storm early next week, further complicating travel conditions in the Sierra.

“It’s not going to bring as much snow, but it may hamper blizzard recovery efforts depending on what happens this weekend,” she said.

Carpenter said weather models predict a fairly active pattern with the potential for more storms continuing throughout the week, which could help improve the snowpack.

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