Powerful California blizzard shuts down roads and ski resorts as heavy snow and fierce winds slam mountains

Powerful California blizzard shuts down roads and ski resorts as heavy snow and fierce winds slam mountains

Northern California grappled with relentless blizzard conditions throughout the weekend, as fierce winds and heavy snowfall battered mountainous regions and extended into lower valleys.

The most severe weather unfolded at the highest elevations of the mountains, where whiteout conditions and hurricane-force winds persisted. Blizzard warnings remained in effect for the northern and central Sierra Nevada until Monday morning, with forecasts predicting up to 1 foot of snowfall and gusts reaching 45-75 mph, possibly reaching up to 90 mph at Sierra Nevada peaks.

While the heaviest snowfall was expected to diminish by Monday, moderate snow showers could persist across parts of the Intermountain West until Tuesday, potentially adding nearly a foot of additional snowfall. Although not as substantial as the weekend’s storm, more winter weather alerts might still be issued.

The impact of the snowstorm was evident as a 70-mile stretch of Interstate 80 near the Nevada state line remained closed for over a day, leaving drivers stranded. Some areas in the Sierra experienced staggering snowfall amounts, with over 7 feet recorded in a 72-hour period, notably at Sugar Bowl and Donner Peak.

Extreme wind gusts further exacerbated the situation, with Palisades Tahoe Ski Base registering a gust of 145 mph and the Sagehen Creek Field Station recording one of 138 mph. Despite the challenging conditions, the number of homes and businesses without power in California had significantly decreased by Sunday evening.

The storm wreaked havoc on ski resorts, forcing closures of numerous ski fields and chairlifts including those at Palisades Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, and Mammoth. Images shared by Sierra-at-Tahoe revealed snow accumulation blocking resort facilities and vehicles buried under snow in the guest parking area.

The National Weather Service cautioned against travel due to whiteout conditions and blowing snow, rendering travel “impossible” in some areas. The closure of US 395, the main road to Mammoth Mountain ski resort, and reports of stranded vehicles underscored the perilous conditions faced by motorists.

Efforts to clear roadways were hampered by damaged equipment and road closures, with the California Department of Transportation facing challenges in maintaining operations amid the severe weather. Despite the obstacles, crews worked diligently to reopen roads and ensure public safety.

Yosemite National Park, partially closed on Friday due to the storm, began reopening to visitors on Sunday afternoon, albeit with snowy conditions prevailing throughout the park. Park officials urged visitors to remain cautious and prepared for potential tire chain requirements and advised checking road conditions before embarking on their journeys.