Powerful storms in California and Nevada dump snow on interstates and mountains

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A powerful snowstorm swept through the Sierra Nevada Saturday night, the biggest storm of the season that closed a long stretch of Interstate-80 in California and pounded lower elevations with strong winds and heavy rain. Thousands of customers without power.

Up to 10 feet (3 meters) of snow is expected in some areas. The National Weather Service in Reno expects heavy snow to arrive after midnight late Friday, followed by blizzard conditions and blowing snow into Saturday, reducing visibility to a quarter-mile or less.

A “high to severe avalanche danger” is expected in the backcountry through Sunday evening across the Central Sierra, including the greater Lake Tahoe area, the weather service said.

California officials said 100 miles (160 kilometers) of I-80 was closed Friday due to “swirling, high winds and low visibility.” They have no estimate of when the freeway will reopen from the California-Nevada border west of Reno near California's Emigrant Gap.

Pacific Gas & Electric reported 24,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday at 10 p.m.

A tornado touched down in Madera County Friday afternoon and caused some damage to an elementary school, said Andy Bollenbacher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.

Westbound traffic moves slowly on I-80 at the Donner Pass exit on March 1, 2024 in Truckee, California. The most powerful Pacific storm of the season is forecast to bring up to 10 feet of snow to the Sierra Nevada. By the end of the week. (AP Photo/Andy Baron)

Some ski resorts that were closed on Friday said they planned to close on Saturday with a view to reopening on Sunday, but most said they were waiting to provide updates on Saturday morning.

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Palisades Tahoe, Tahoe's largest resort on the north end and site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, said it hoped to reopen some Palisades slopes at lower elevations on Saturday, but said it would close all chairlifts for a second day at neighboring Alpine Meadows. For forecasts of “heavy snow and 100 mph winds” (160.9 km/h).

“We've had essential personnel on the mountain all day, doing containment work, maintaining access roads and excavating chairs, but based on current conditions, if we're able to open, there will be significant delays,” Palisades Tahoe said. Friday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Storm started penetrating the area Thursday. A blizzard warning covers a 300-mile (482-kilometer) stretch of mountain until Sunday morning.

Some skiers ran up the mountains ahead of the storm.

Daniel Lawley, an avid skier who works at a Reno-area home/building supply store, is not one of them. He said Friday that he wouldn't have thought of making the hour-long drive to ski on his season pass at Tahoe Resort because of hurricane-force winds.

But he said most of his customers think Friday's storm won't be as bad as predicted.

“One guy asked me for a shovel,” Lawley said. “Nobody asked me about the snow we sold last storm two weeks ago.”

Skiers rush through the Village at Northstar California Resort as snow falls in Truckee, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.  (AP Photo/Andy Barron)

Skiers rush through the Village at Northstar California Resort as snow falls in Truckee, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Barron)

Juan Manuel plows snow on the sidewalk in front of The Bar of American on March 1, 2024, in downtown Truckee, Calif.  (AP Photo/Andy Barron)

Juan Manuel plows snow on the sidewalk in front of The Bar of American on March 1, 2024, in downtown Truckee, Calif. (AP Photo/Andy Barron)

Meteorologists forecast up to 10 feet (3 meters) of snow over the weekend in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, 3 to 6 feet (0.9 to 1.8 meters) in lakeshore communities and more than a foot (30 centimeters) in valleys on the eastern side of the Sierra, including Reno. .

Yosemite National Park was closed Friday and officials said it will remain closed until at least noon Sunday.

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Associated Press reporter Johnny Harr in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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