Sierra Storm Raises Avalanche Concerns

A weekend storm that dumped nearly 3 feet of new snow in some areas of the Sierra Nevada has increased the risk of avalanche danger in the backcountry, experts said Monday.

Several small avalanches were reported over the weekend, including one that shut down the Mount Rose Highway for several hours Sunday night.

That slide was about 150 yards long and 8 feet deep. The road that links southwest Reno with Incline Village reopened just before 6 a.m. Monday, the Nevada Highway Patrol said.

"The big issue up there was that the wind was blowing snow and causing near-zero visibility," said NHP Trooper Scott Simon said. "Crews couldn't get up there to clear the road."

Another natural avalanche occurred in the Carson Pass area in California along Highway 88.

Authorities said no injuries were reported.

Brandon Schwartz, a forecaster with the Sierra Avalanche Center, on Monday said avalanche danger near and above the Sierra treeline is considerable, with pockets of high danger areas in wind prone areas on steep slopes.

Below treeline, the danger is considered low, with pockets of moderate danger in steep, windy areas.

"Backcountry travelers should not be surprised by a human triggered avalanche that is large enough to bury, injure or kill a person," Schwartz said on the center's Web site.

By midday Monday, the storm had pushed east, but chains or snow tires were still required on all mountain passes, including Interstate 80 over Donna Summit and U.S. 50.

A portion of U.S. 395 from Bridgeport, Calif., north to the Nevada line was closed for much of the day because of ice and blowing snow, the California Highway Patrol said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)