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Severe Bay Area Storm Brings Road Closures and Blizzard Conditions to the Sierra Nevada

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Employee Juan Manuel clears snow from in front of Bar of America in downtown Truckee, Nevada County, on Saturday, March 2, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images)

Updated 5 p.m. Saturday

A major storm ripping through the Sierra Nevada mountains has shut down Interstate 80 in both directions and closed ski resorts for the day in the Lake Tahoe area. PG&E is reporting power outages affecting thousands of customers.

Interstate 80 has been partially closed since 5 p.m. Friday and remained closed late Saturday between Colfax, Placer County, and the Nevada state line “due to spinouts.” The California Highway Patrol is advising travelers to completely avoid mountain travel.

The National Weather Service’s Sacramento office said they project snowfall totals of over 12 feet at higher elevations from the storm, which is expected to last through Sunday morning. Wind gusts of 60 to 80 miles per hour are also expected over the mountains. This, combined with rapidly falling snow, means there will be near-zero visibility for travelers in the area today.

NWS Sacramento meteorologist Sarah Purdue said on Saturday mountain travel is “extremely dangerous right now,” and highly discouraged any travel until the blizzard warning expires Sunday morning.

People walk along Donner Pass Road as snow continues to fall in downtown Truckee on Saturday, March 2, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images)

But Purdue said there’s a second storm on the way, primarily affecting the Sierra.

“It’ll be less impactful than this current system,” said Purdue. “But between the limited recovery time between this system and the next — and expecting 1 to 2 feet of snow, potentially at elevations above 5000 feet — it could just put a hamper on recovery efforts and clean up.”

A group waits at a bus stop for an ‘out of service’ bus pull up as a blizzard hits Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas on March 2, 2024. (DAVID SWANSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Several ski resorts in the Tahoe area decided to close Saturday, including Sugar Bowl, Boreal, Sierra and Kirkwood, although Heavenly had a few lifts open. Yosemite National Park also remained closed through at least noon Sunday.

Patrick Lacey, PR manager for Palisades Tahoe told KQED the ski resort made the decision to close for the day after it received 2 to 4 feet of snow overnight, with at least another foot expected. Lacey also said 190 mile-per-hour wind gusts were recorded last night at the summit.

PG&E said it has mobilized more than 6,500 personnel and over 450 crews and reports that as of Saturday evening there were 230 outages affecting 11,299 customers throughout Northern California and the Sierras.

In the Bay Area, more rain showers and strong westerly winds were expected, with a high surf advisory in effect through 4 p.m. Saturday, and also a frost advisory issued for late Saturday through Sunday morning in the North Bay, including overnight lows in the 40s. Caltrans had a high wind advisory in effect for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

 

On Friday evening, The Mendocino Voice reported that a U.S. Postal Service office in Leggett, Mendocino County, was struck by lightning, causing the building to burn down. No injuries have been reported.

KQED’s Lakshmi Sarah, Azul Dahlstrom-Eckman, Natalia Navarro and Attila Pelit contributed to this story.

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