Powerful Storm Cripples Region

By: Staff
By: Staff

A powerful winter storm pounded the Sierra and
northern Nevada with up to 4½ feet of snow, closing all three major
highways over the Sierra, and delaying train and air passengers.
Winter storm warnings continued into Tuesday morning across all
the Sierra and most of northern Nevada, where as much as 5 more
feet of snow was expected at higher elevations.
The storm brought up to 18 inches of snow to the Reno area,
closing schools, governmental offices and businesses. Dozens of
church services and all high school sporting events were canceled
over the weekend.
The region was still digging out from a Dec. 30 storm that
dumped as much as 9 feet of snow in the Sierra and 4 feet in the
Reno area.
"A combination of two storms of this magnitude hasn't occurred
in the city of Reno since 1916," National Weather Service
forecaster Shane Snyder said. "This should rank up there with the
all-time storms by the time it's done."
Poor visibility and an avalanche threat were blamed for shutting
down Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, U.S. Highway 50 over Echo
Summit and Highway 88 over Carson Pass. The highways connect
Sacramento, Calif., to the Reno-Tahoe area.
"I don't ever recall so much snow built up along I-80," said
Jody Churich, spokeswoman for the Boreal ski resort atop Donner
Summit. "The snow stakes are barely popping out of the snow."
Chains or snow tires were required on nearly every other highway
in the Sierra and northern Nevada.
The storm also was delaying Amtrak passengers over the Sierra,
spokesman Mark Magliari said.
A San Francisco-bound California Zephyr arrived in Reno more
than six hours late on Saturday, while a Chicago-bound train
arrived in Reno nearly two hours late.
And passengers found the Amtrak charter Fun Train no fun Friday
as it arrived in Reno 4½ hours late.
"There was just too much snow on the tracks," Magliari said.
"That is a very challenging railroad to keep open during severe
storms."
At Reno-Tahoe International Airport, plows were keeping runways
and taxiways open but there were dozens of cancellations and
delays, spokeswoman Heidi Berthold said.
"It's been a challenge to keep the airport open and we've been
up to it," Berthold said. "Our crews hauled off 30,000 truckloads
of snow" over an eight-day period ending Friday.
The storm also posed a challenge to ambulance and fire crews at
Lake Tahoe, where plows were being sent out with emergency vehicles
on unplowed roads.
"Our public works supervisor said by the time they come back to
a road they plowed, there's already a foot of new snow on the
road," said Leona Allen, a dispatcher in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
"Our response time is delayed, but we haven't missed a call."
Washoe County, Sparks and Reno governments declared a state of
emergency, and continued a round-the-clock effort to clear clogged
Reno-area streets.
The storm was blamed for hundreds of minor traffic accidents
across the region and the widespread collapse of carports.
By Saturday afternoon, the storm had left as much as 18 inches
of snow in Reno and Carson City. Three Lake Tahoe ski resorts -
Heavenly, Sierra at Tahoe and Mount Rose - reported up to 4½ feet
of snow.
Total snow amounts by Monday night should range from 2 to 4 feet
in the Nevada valleys of the eastern Sierra front to 8 to 10 feet
at the higher elevations of the mountains, the weather service
said.


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