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West Coast braces as blizzard in California’s Sierra Nevada brings nonstop snow, dangerous conditions

As snow totals continue to accumulate by the hour, winter storm warnings in California’s Sierra Nevada are expected to remain in effect until Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

The region has been experiencing relentless blizzard conditions since Thursday, resulting in the closure of a long stretch of Interstate-80 in California and residents being asked to take shelter as heavy snow and strong wind gusts threatened their safety.

The National Weather Service said Saturday that more than 3 inches of snow had been falling in Sierra Nevada each hour and winds were blowing over 100 mph, causing whiteout conditions “making travel impossible through the area.”

This means that parts of the Sierra Nevada are on pace to accumulated up to 10 feet of snow.

Emerald Bay Road in Lake Tahoe, Calif., on March 1, 2024.Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu via Getty Images

This is the biggest snowstorm of the season, with additional blizzard and winter storm warnings extending to parts of Northern California and the state of Nevada.

Nevada’s Departments of Transportation and Public Safety reported “worsening road conditions” in the area Friday, according to Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo.

Blizzard conditions in the region also prompted winter storm warnings in parts of Utah and Colorado.

About 11 million people in cities that include Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Cheyenne, and Salt Lake City also remained under wind alerts Saturday, facing strong gusts of 50 to 100 mph in elevated areas and 35 to 55 mph winds blowing through lower areas.

The Sierra Nevada mountains
The Sierra Nevada mountains during a powerful winter storm on Friday, in Truckee, Calif.Mario Tama / Getty Images

“I am urging Northern Nevadans to take serious precautions as a strong winter storm moves through the region,” Lombardo warned in a social media post on X. “Stay indoors and keep warm Nevada!”

HIGH to EXTREME avalanche danger” is expected in the backcountry through Sunday evening throughout the Central Sierra slopes between Yuba Pass and Ebbetts Pass, including the greater Lake Tahoe area, the weather service said.

The California Highway Patrol said Saturday it had “no estimated time of reopening” Interstate-80, the main route between Reno and Sacramento.

The state patrol as well as other transportation officials and authorities previously reported responding to dozens of collisions on the freeway, vehicles sliding into snow banks or getting stuck on the road, NBC Bay Area reported. There were no immediate reports of any serious injuries.

Snow blanketed houses along Donner Lake.
Snow blanketed houses along Donner Lake in Truckee, Calif., on Friday.Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu via Getty Images

Thousands of power customers in the regions affected by the blizzard have been experiencing storm-related outages, according to Pacific Gas & Electric. Dave Ebbert, a supervisor for the utility company in the Sierra region, reported downed powerlines on Interstate-80 and trees that have knocked down powerlines in the area as of Friday.

Over 28,000 power customers in the Sierra Nevada region remained without power Saturday morning, according to PowerOutageUS. In Nevada and other affected areas in the West, tens of thousands of additional power customers also grappled with storm-related outages.

“We’re going to work diligently to keep the community and the public safe,” Ebbert said. “We’re going to restore power safely i the most timely manner possible.”

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