Storm Clogs Highways, Closes Ski Resorts

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A potent winter storm swept into the Sierra just hours into the new year, shutting down the main highways linking Northern California and Nevada and giving ski areas more weather than they could handle.

"It is wild up here," Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Rachael Woods said after the resort on Lake Tahoe's northwest shore surrendered for the day as winds topped 120 mph. "I just hope I can get home."

She said Alpine had picked up 14 inches of snow by midafternoon with more still falling heavily.

"When this storm decides to mosey on, we're going to have the powder day of a lifetime here," she said.

A winter storm warning remained in effect for the Tahoe Basin, where a combination of heavy snow and winds shut down Interstate-80 for a 73-mile stretch west of the California-Nevada line.

U.S. 50 south of Lake Tahoe was closed intermittently for avalanche control, with chains mandatory for 42 miles west of the state line when it was open.

Elsewhere in the Sierra, chains or snow tires were mandatory on highways that weren't closed by the drifting snow or for avalanche control.

On Monday, measurements by the California Department of Water Resources put the snow depth at Echo Summit, 25 miles south of Alpine Meadows, at 130 percent of average for this time of year.

On Thursday, Woods said Alpine was at 160 percent of average with 167 inches of snow at its base lodge and 234 inches at its 7,500-foot midmountain level.

Despite having to close on New Year's Day, she said the storm was a good investment.

"It's a price you have to pay to get this amount of snow," she said.

"If it didn't snow again, we'd have enough snow to cover us for the season."

The storm snarled traffic from the Sierra to the Utah line, dropping a mixture of rain and snow in western Nevada that prompted chain or snow tire requirements on U.S. 395 from the northern California line through Reno, Carson City and Minden to the southern California line.

The eastern part of the state was under a blowing snow advisory late Thursday with chains or snow tires required on Interstate-80 and U.S. 50 over the summits and on connecting highways including U.S. 93 north and south of I-80.

The forecast called for at least a chance of snow into Saturday along with temperatures ranging from lows in the teens and 20s to highs in the 30s and low 40s.