upper waypoint

Sierra Nevada Braces for More Snow After Blizzard Shuts Interstate, Closes Ski Resorts

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Snowfall covering a street, buildings and cars.
Snow falls downtown, north of Lake Tahoe, during a powerful multiple day winter storm in the Sierra Nevada mountains on March 2, 2024 in Truckee. Blizzard warnings were issued with snowfall of up to 12 feet and wind gusts over 100 mph expected in some higher elevation locations. Yosemite National Park is closed and a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 80 was shut down yesterday due to the storm.  (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Updated 3 p.m. Sunday

Keep the shovels handy: A powerful blizzard in the Sierra Nevada was expected to wane Sunday, but more heavy snow is on the way.

The National Weather Service said conditions would improve as winds weakened Sunday, but precipitation would quickly return, with heavy snow in some areas and rainfall in others.

“We still have some showers ongoing, especially up in the Sierra, and that will kind of continue throughout this afternoon, and then finally taper off overnight tonight,” said Justin Collins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno. “That’s kind of the wrap-up of the storm if you will, and we’re going to have a few more waves come through early this week.”

According to the National Weather Service, Sugar Bowl received 7.25 feet of snow over 72 hours, while the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab received 5.3 feet over the same time period.

Sponsored

That wasn’t much of a break after a multiday storm that one meteorologist called “as bad as it gets” closed a key east-west freeway in northern California, shut down ski resorts, and left thousands of homes and businesses without power.

By Sunday morning, Pacific Gas & Electric had restored power to all but about 7,000 California customers, while NV Energy had reduced its number to roughly 1,000 homes and businesses. And some ski areas were planning to reopen, albeit with delayed start times and limited operations.

“We aren’t outta the woods just yet,” officials at Sierra at Tahoe posted on the resort’s website.

Palisades Tahoe, the largest resort on the north end of Lake Tahoe and site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, closed all chairlifts Saturday because of snow, wind and low visibility. It planned to reopen late Sunday morning after getting an estimated 5 feet of snow on the upper mountain as of Saturday night.

Related Stories

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

According to Brittney McClain, store manager of South Lake Tahoe Ace Hardware, after last year’s major snowstorm, they had several people come into the store to pick up supplies like snow blowers, shovels, and ice melt. While they haven’t had as much of a rush as they’d initially thought for over the weekend, she believes it’s mostly due to “people hunkering down and waiting things through.”

“But as the sun comes out and before the next storms roll in, what’s going to happen is a lot of that snow is going to become compacted, meaning that we’re going to get a lot more ice and that type of stuff,” McClain said. “So we’re going to probably see an uptick in folks picking up ice melt, more shovels, and I would say probably the ice picks, that type of stuff to try to help remove that ice and get back down the asphalt as soon as possible.”

Collins, the meteorologist, said some ski areas reported getting nearly 7 feet of snow. 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 residents near Lake Tahoe and blocking travel on the east-west freeway. He called the storm an “extreme blizzard” for the Sierra Nevada but said he didn’t expect records to be broken.

“It’s certainly just about as bad as it gets in terms of the snow totals and the winds,” Churchill said. “It doesn’t get much worse than that.”

The storm began barreling into the region Thursday. A blizzard warning through Sunday morning covered a 300-mile stretch of the mountains. A second, weaker storm was forecast to bring an additional 1 to 2 feet of snow in the region between Monday and Wednesday next week, according to the National Weather Service office in Sacramento.

Susie Kocher, a forestry advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, lives in the community of Meyers in South Lake Tahoe and said it snowed nonstop since Thursday. She measured the snowpack at 4.5 feet today and said the region is still forecasted to receive between 2–3 more feet by Monday. While she hasn’t seen many people walking or driving down her street, everyone around her still has power. She said the snow has been easier to manage compared to last year.

“The thing that’s different about this snowstorm compared to last year [is that] last year was a really harsh year,” Kocher said. “We had somewhere around 45 feet of snow at my house. It lasted all winter long; there were just constant snowstorms, and it was a lot of work to dig out. And it didn’t stop very often. So this isn’t quite as bad as that yet.”

Colin McCarthy, an Atmospheric Science student at UC Davis who runs a storm watch account on X, formerly known as Twitter, said it has been snowing in Truckee for 72 hours straight, and “the sun has not come out once.”

“Many Truckee locals say this is the most impressive blizzard they have ever seen in town,” McCarthy said. “We have seen extreme blizzard conditions covering the storm the last three days where, at times, you can’t see even 5 feet in front of you. A small avalanche just occurred on Highway 50, meaning there is no west options out of Tahoe now. This is a storm many won’t forget for a while.”

Near Lake Tahoe, the Alibi Ale Works brewpub and restaurant was one of the few businesses open on Saturday. Bartender Thomas Petkanas said about 3 feet of snow had fallen by midday, and patrons were shaking off snow as they arrived.

“It’s snowing pretty hard out there, really windy, and power is out to about half the town,” Petkanas said by telephone.

California authorities on Friday shut down 100 miles of I-80, the main route between Reno and Sacramento, because of “spin outs, high winds, and low visibility.” There was no estimate when the freeway would reopen from the California-Nevada border west of Reno to near Emigrant Gap, California.

Rudy Islas spent about 40 minutes shoveling his car out before heading to work at a coffee shop in Truckee, California, on Sunday morning. The snow fazed neither him nor his customers, he said.

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

Sponsored

KQED’s Azul Dahlstrom-Eckman, Christopher Alam, Attila Pelit and Spencer Whitney contributed reporting to this story.

lower waypoint
next waypoint
State Prisons Offset New Inmate Wage Hikes by Cutting Hours for Some WorkersCecil Williams, Legendary Pastor of Glide Church, Dies at 94Erik Aadahl on the Power of Sound in FilmFresno's Chinatown Neighborhood To See Big Changes From High Speed RailKQED Youth Takeover: How Can San Jose Schools Create Safer Campuses?How to Attend a Rally Safely in the Bay Area: Your Rights, Protections and the PoliceWill Less Homework Stress Make California Students Happier?Silicon Valley House Seat Race Gets a RecountNurses Warn Patient Safety at Risk as AI Use Spreads in Health CareRainn Wilson from ‘The Office’ on Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution