A major winter storm that has been pounding the Sierra and northern Nevada slowly winds down. It caused, floods, accidents, evacutions and poor driving conditions.
A winter storm warning that has been in effect for a number of days will finally being to be lowered Sunday.
However, heavy snow showers will continue Sunday with possible snowfall rates of up to 3 inches per hour which could occur in the heaviest showers.
Additional accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are expected below 7000 feet
including the Lake Tahoe basin and another 8 to 12 inches could be expected above 7000 feet by Sunday evening.
Officials forcast that wind gusts could reach near 80 mph on the ridges which will create localized blizzard conditions Sunday morning, especially over the passes.
NHP and NDOT again advise that conditions can deteriorate rapidly during winter storms and remind people to slow down and allow extra time when traveling. Carry tire chains, food, water, blankets and a flashlight in your car in case of an emergency.
The storm so far has had devastating effects throughout the area causing a huge food In Fernley, a massive 17 car pile up on I-80, power outages is now having diminishing effects across Nevada.
Officials are still saying that moderate to heavy snowfalls will continue to make travel difficult Sunday across the Sierra with visibility near zero at times with bursts of heavy snow blowing snow over the passes.
In addition NDOT warns of significant avalanche dangers in the Sierra.
Sunday we will see snow in the morning then snow showers in the
afternoon. Snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches at Lake level with
6 to 12 inches above 7000 feet with highs 24 to 34 andsouthwest winds 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. ridge gusts up to 65 mph in the morning.
Sunday night, snow showers likely. Snow accumulation up to 2 inches with lows of 5 to 15.
"The sleet is blowing sideways and the trees are bending in the middle," said Misty Young, owner of the Squeeze Inn restaurant in
downtown Truckee, Calif.
Up to 10 feet of snow was possible at the highest elevations by
Sunday before the storm is forecast to make its way east.
U.S. Interstate 80 over Donner Summit west of Reno was closed periodically throughout Friday because of jackknifed trucks, spin outs and blinding snow.
It was closed in both directions again at the Nevada-California line about 5 p.m. due to poor visibility and state patrolmen said they did not know if it would reopen overnight.
Traffic on U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit also was backed up because of wrecks, authorities said.
One trucker who holed up at a truck stop in west Reno said it would be foolish to try to continue on into California.
"You're not getting over that mountain," Christopher Rhoudes said. "You get up there it's deadly and rescue is not coming after you."
The town of Truckee called in the American Red Cross to set up an emergency shelter for motorists stranded by the storm or anyone else in need of safe harbor.
Dozens of flights in and out of Reno-Tahoe International were canceled although the airport remained open.
High school athletic events also were canceled across much of northern Nevada Friday night and the University of Nevada, Reno - for the first time in memory - canceled Saturday night's basketball game against Utah State.
In addition to a winter storm warning and high wind warnings, flood warnings were posted into Friday evening for small stream and low-lying areas from north of Reno to Gardnerville 50 miles south, along the central Sierra and 60 miles east to Fallon.
Up to 2 inches of rain was reported by Friday evening in parts of Reno, which averages only 8 inches of rainfall annually. Several local streets and intersections flooded, but no damage to homes was reported. In neighboring Sparks, an I-80 underpass was closed because it was under 4 feet of water. By 5:30 p.m., the rain had changed over to big fluffy snowflakes.
One gust of wind registered 125 mph over the ridge of the Sierra Friday afternoon. The heaviest snowfall was expected late Friday and overnight, when snow could pile up at the rate of 6 inches an hour, the National Weather Service said.
"Attempting to travel in the Sierra will put your life at risk," the weather service warned on its Web site.
Neil Erasmus, manager of Ice Lake Lodge and Rainbow Lodge near
Donner Lake, said it was a struggle to keep up with the mounting snow.
"It's a whiteout here," he said. "We're plowing and grooming, plowing and grooming to keep us from being buried in."
The massive storm prompted authorities in Nevada to warn truckers heading toward the Sierra en route to the West Coast from as far away as Evanston, Wyo. - 600 miles east of Reno - to find a place to hunker down way before reaching the Nevada-California line.
"State officials have been working closely with trucking companies and truck stops to let them know, 'Stay put,"' said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen.
The concern, Allen said, was that hundreds of trucks with nowhere to go would clog the highway for miles and impede snow removal if, as expected, I-80 was shut down.
"If it starts dumping at the rate they're talking, Cal trans won't be able to keep up," Allen said.
Around Lake Tahoe, at an elevation of 6,200 feet, snow began falling around noon.
Winter storm warnings were issued all across northern Nevada, from Reno to the Utah line. The heaviest snowfall was expected overnight into Saturday. The weather service said 4-10 inches of snow was expected in the Reno area, with up to 16 inches in foothill regions.
Heavenly Mountain Resort at South Lake Tahoe, Alpine Meadows Ski
Area in Tahoe City, Mt. Rose Ski Resort near Reno and Badger Pass
Ski Area in Yosemite National Park shut down for the day.
"To actually watch the topography of the mountain change right before your eyes is very exciting," said Rachel Woods, a spokeswoman for Alpine Meadows who said the ski resort was getting an inch of snow an hour Friday morning.
The Sierra Avalanche Center issued an extreme avalanche danger warning for the backcountry around Lake Tahoe due to the high hourly snowfall rates.
"They're predicting at least 6 inches an hour, which is two to three times as fast as normal up here," said Andy Anderson, avalanche forecaster. "The danger is as high as it can get."
The avalanche danger also was high in northeast Nevada, where high winds and heavy snow was forecast into the weekend.
"We've seen quite a bit of slide activity already in the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt Range," said Joe Royer of Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski in Lamoille near Elko.
The University of Nevada, Reno canceled Saturday night's scheduled basketball game against Utah State after the Aggies were unable to travel from Logan, Utah to Reno on Friday.
"The safety of the student athletes, coaches and staff on both teams as well as the safety of our Wolf Pack fans is our highest priority," Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said. She said the game would be rescheduled but no date had been set.
Brian Kulpin, spokesman for Reno-Tahoe International Airport, advised travelers to check with their airlines concerning flights before venturing to the airport.
"Every airline has different specifications regarding what conditions they can fly in," he said.
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