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Blizzard in California's Sierra Nevada brings nonstop snow, dangerous conditions

The season’s biggest snowstorm is affecting parts of Northern California and Nevada, causing power outages, freeway closures and avalanche warnings.
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As snow totals continue to accumulate by the hour, winter storm warnings in California’s Sierra Nevada are expected to continue past 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 the Sierra Nevada every hour and that winds were blowing over 100 mph, causing whiteout conditions “making travel impossible through the area.”

The blizzard should start to wane Sunday, it said, but another storm is expected to start Monday.

NWS Sacramento said a blizzard warning was in effect through Sunday evening because of conditions that made for "extremely dangerous to impossible travel." A winter storm warning will also remain in effect until 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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

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

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

Nevada’s Transportation Department urged people Saturday to avoid travel if they could, and it said on X that it was "digging highways out of last night's snow."

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

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

U.S. Route 50, the east-west highway that stretches across the country, reopened Sunday morning after a snowslide at the mountain pass Echo Summit briefly trapped several vehicles but left no injuries.

The California Highway Patrol said Sunday morning that it still had “no estimated time of reopening” for I-80, the main route between Reno and Sacramento.

The state patrol and other transportation officials and authorities had reported responding to dozens of collisions on the freeway, as well as vehicles sliding into snowbanks 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 experienced storm-related outages, according to Pacific Gas & Electric. Dave Ebbert, a supervisor for the utility company in the Sierra region, reported downed power lines on I-80 and trees that had knocked down power lines in the area as of Friday.

By Sunday morning about 14,700 customers remained without power statewide, according to PowerOutage.us.

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

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