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A massive snowstorm that’s making its way across Northern California’s Lake Tahoe area and over the state line to western Nevada has caused the shutdown of a 70-mile section of Interstate 80 (I-80) in both directions, with no reopening yet in sight.
Further north, State Route 49 is also closed between Camptonville and Sierraville, while Highway 50 remains shut down between Echo Summit and Meyers because of “multiple spinouts”, state transportation department Caltrans told SFGate.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the Greater Lake Tahoe area and across the Nevada state line, which remains in effect through 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday. It warns of, “Additional snow accumulations 15-25 inches in Truckee and South Lake Tahoe, with 2 to 4 feet for mountain areas above 7000 feet. Winds gusting 40 to 60 mph, with gusts well over 100 mph on Sierra ridges. Dangerous blowing and drifting snow with low visibility.”
There’s even an Avalanche Warning in effect for the Greater Lake Tahoe area, which warns that the strong winds and unstable conditions are expected to lead to large natural and human-triggered avalanches. The affected areas include the, “Central Sierra Nevada Mountains between Yuba Pass (Hwy 49) on the north and Ebbetts Pass (Hwy 4) on the south,” the warning says.
Basically, roads all across the Sierra region are considered too dangerous to drive on, even if Caltrans hasn’t closed them down completely. The NWS has warned people in the area to delay travel, if at all possible. “Travel will be very difficult to impossible. Very strong winds could cause extensive tree damage and power outages,” according to the Winter Storm Warning. “Roads and highways may be closed for extended periods of time,” and “you could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours.”
Those who absolutely must travel should, “prepare for long delays and carry an emergency kit with extra food, water and clothing.” Even folks who stay safely indoors could be affected, with the NWS advising that they, “have a backup plan in case of power outages.”
Good morning! Heading to the Sierra? Please rethink your plans.I-80, US-50 & several other highways CLOSED due to the winter storm & poor visibility. Mountain travel today (Sun.) will be difficult to impossible & HIGHLY DISCOURAGED. #KnowBeforeYouGo https://t.co/HS687UgNj7 pic.twitter.com/R5B59quYW5
— Caltrans District 3 (@CaltransDist3) December 26, 2021
The powerful storm, which isn’t over yet, dumped two feet of snow on some Tahoe ski resorts on Christmas Day. On Lake Tahoe’s western shore, Homewood received 20 inches Saturday, while about a foot of snow fell Truckee’s Northstar Resort from Friday night through Saturday.
Northeast of Tahoe, across the Nevada state line, Route 395 was also closed due to a 20-car pileup near Bowers Mansion. Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue, which assisted with this morning’s cleanup, tweeted, “Conditions are extreme in the Washoe Valley with 50 mph winds and white out conditions.” It also disclosed that at least three people from the scene of the accident were transported to a hospital, their injuries and current status unknown.
Those potentially driving in the affected area should check for road closures and highway status updates here before getting in their cars.