Waiting For The Next Big One

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Throughout northern Nevada, Monday has been another day off for
pupils after school officials decided that snow-clogged streets
were too treacherous for buses, particularly with still more snow
The outlook called for another storm to push across the Sierra
and into western Nevada Monday night through Tuesday that could add
5 more feet in the mountains and up to a foot in the Reno-Carson
City area. The region remained under a winter storm warning through
Monday's break between storms let road crews reopen the major
Sierra highways, although chains were mandatory early Monday on
Interstate-80 over Donner Summit. Chains or snow tires were needed
on most other Sierra roads.
U.S. 395 was open with no controls by midmorning, 24 hours after
the commuter link between Reno and Carson City was shut down by
whiteout conditions.
Winds sweeping down the Sierra and through the snow-packed
valley sent at least 40 vehicles, including three Nevada Highway
Patrol cruisers, two tow trucks and a snow plow skidding into snow
drifts, ditches and each other.
"We're talking real ugly conditions. In 12 years with the NHP
I've never seen conditions that bad," Trooper Jeff Bowers said.
"That would have been as scary as it gets to be out there alone in
those conditions."
National Guard members used Humvees to pick up the stranded
The NHP reported 109 accidents with 11 injuries and 321 stranded
vehicles, including the 40 in Washoe Valley.
The weekend storm was the latest in a string of powerful systems
that have dumped as much as 19 feet of snow in the Sierra and 6½
feet in the Reno area since Dec. 28.
"The snow banks along Interstate 80 are about 8 to 10 feet
high. It's like you're going through a maze," said Jane Dulaney,
spokeswoman for the Rainbow Lodge west of Donner Summit.
About 220 Amtrak passengers reached Sacramento on Sunday morning
after spending the night stuck in their train in deep snow west of
Donner Summit, spokesman Marc Magliari said.
One car of the California Zephyr, eastbound from Oakland,
Calif., to Chicago, derailed in the snow Saturday evening. No one
was hurt. Amtrak officials moved the passengers to other cars and
the train reversed course and returned to Sacramento.
Because of the derailment, a westbound Zephyr had to stop in
Reno and its roughly 140 passengers completed their trip to
California by bus.
"It's unfortunately the nature of mountain railroading that you
can get delayed by a severe storm," Magliari said.
Reno-Tahoe International Airport was closed for 12 hours for the
second time in a week, and only the third time in 40 years, because
plows could not keep up with the heavy snowfall, spokeswoman Trish
Tucker said.
The storm caused dozens of flight cancellations and delays.
"It's nice to know that there are places with more snow than
the Dakotas," Wendy Wollmuth said while waiting for a flight to
her home in Moffit, N.D. "We're a bit spooked about being here
with all this snow."
When the latest storm hit, the Reno region had still been
digging out from a Dec. 30 storm that dumped as much as 4 feet of
snow on the city.
"You'd have to go back to 1916 to top this sequence of
storms," National Weather Service forecaster Tom Cylke said Sunday
of the snow accumulation in Reno.
Heavy snow was blamed for the collapse of a Salvation Army
warehouse roof Sunday in Reno. No injuries were reported. A number
of apartment carports also folded onto vehicles under the weight of
the snow.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell declared a state of emergency to obtain
state and federal money for storm-related costs that he said could
surpass $1 million.
Sierra ski resort operators rejoiced over the snowfall, saying
it would set them up for a busy Martin Luther King Jr. holiday
Heavenly ski resort on Tahoe's south shore already has received
10 feet of snow in January, which exceeds the monthly average of
about 8 feet, spokeswoman Molly Cuffe said.
Since Dec. 28, the resort has reported as much as 19 feet of
"These back-to-back storms have created some of the best skiing
conditions locals have ever seen. It's unbelievable how much snow
has fallen in such a short period," Cuffe said.
But the storm posed a challenge to ambulance and fire crews at
Tahoe, where plows were being sent out with emergency vehicles to
clear clogged roads.
The U.S. Forest Service issued an avalanche advisory for the
central Sierra backcountry between Yuba and Sonora passes.