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Powerful California blizzard shuts down roads and ski resorts as heavy snow and fierce winds slam mountains

Blizzard conditions continued to slam Northern California over the weekend with damaging winds and heavy snow dumping on mountain ridges down to the valleys.

The most extreme conditions are unfolding at the highest elevations in the mountains, with whiteout conditions and hurricane-force winds.

Winter storm alerts remain across most western states, with blizzard warnings still in effect for the the northern and central Sierra Nevada until Monday morning, where up to 1 foot of snowfall and gusts of 45-75 mph are possible. Gusts across the Sierra Nevada peaks could still reach up to 90 mph.

Although the heaviest snowfall will largely subside across the West on Monday, lingering rounds of moderate snowfall could still fall across parts of the Intermountain West into Tuesday, with additional snowfall potentially approaching a foot. More winter weather alerts could still be issued, with snowfall not expected to be as substantial as was seen over the weekend.

The snow has closed a 70-mile stretch of Interstate 80 near the Nevada state line for more than a day after highway officials reported stranded drivers Friday night.

Some areas of the Sierra saw more than 7 feet of snow in a 72-hour period, according to the National Weather Service, including Sugar Bowl, California, which received 89 inches (7.42 feet) and Donner Peak, California, which got 87 inches (7.25 feet).

The Palisades Tahoe Ski Base registered a wind gust Sunday of 145 mph, while the Sagehen Creek Field Station saw one of 138 mph.

Fewer than 8,600 homes and businesses were without power in California on Sunday evening, down from nearly 40,000, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.

Numerous ski fields and chairlifts remained closed Sunday, including at Palisades Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Mammoth.

The ski resort Sierra-at-Tahoe in Twin Bridges shared images with CNN of snow piling up against the door of the resort’s maintenance shop and a car in the resort’s guest parking buried in snow that fell overnight.

“The intensity of the snow and high winds along the Sierra Nevada as well as across the Intermountain West will gradually wane through Monday. However, reinforcing upper-level energies arriving from the Pacific (will) keep the unstable cold air mass in place across a large section of the western US,” the National Weather Service said in its forecast discussion Sunday afternoon.

Whiteouts and ‘impossible’ travel conditions

Residents try to clear snow around a car in Truckee on Saturday. - Brooke Hess-Homeier/AP
Residents try to clear snow around a car in Truckee on Saturday. - Brooke Hess-Homeier/AP

Extreme snowfall and roaring winds in the Sierra and parts of the northern ranges mean blowing snow and whiteout conditions were making travel “impossible,” the National Weather Service warned.

The storm forced the closure of the main road to Mammoth Mountain ski resort, US 395, for hours Saturday due to whiteout conditions, according to the California Department of Transportation.

The snowy and windy conditions left some vehicles stuck on the road on Friday, with some motorists in need of rescue, according to the highway patrol office Truckee, which reported a “mass amount of vehicles stuck over Donner Summit.”

“At one point, emergency personnel and tow trucks had a difficult time getting to motorists due to blizzard conditions,” the agency said.

Many other roadways in the area are closed due to the weather and some are being chain controlled, requiring vehicles to have chains to proceed on the roadways.

The California Highway Patrol posted a photo Saturday afternoon of one of its cars stuck in snow. “Even our officers sometimes get stuck in the snow! The blizzard-like conditions have yet to let up, but nonetheless, our officers are working hard to keep everyone safe. Avoid travel during this time and stay updated on road conditions,” it said on Facebook.

A vehicle drives on a section of Interstate 80 which remains closed in Truckee, California, on Sunday. - Mario Tama/Getty Images
A vehicle drives on a section of Interstate 80 which remains closed in Truckee, California, on Sunday. - Mario Tama/Getty Images

On Sunday morning, the highway patrol in Truckee shared video of snowy conditions and low visibility on a stretch of I-80, which remained closed on Sunday at Colfax and the Nevada state line as of 7:53 p.m. Pacific Time.

The severe winter storm conditions in Northern California posed issues for crews working Sunday to clear roadways of snow, which damaged some equipment.

“We have been down to two of 10 blowers at our central hub in Kingvale and six out of 20 from Auburn to the Nevada state line,” California Department of Transportation officials said in a post on X.

In the South Lake Tahoe area, a snowslide trapped vehicles and briefly shut down Highway 50 Sunday morning. There were no injuries and crews quickly reopened the road, officials said.

Yosemite National Park, which closed Friday due to the storm, partially reopened to visitors Sunday afternoon, park officials announced on Facebook.

“Expect snowy conditions throughout the park,” park officials said.

Park officials warned visitors tire chains may be required for their vehicles and to check road conditions.

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