Blizzard, Gusty Winds Continue To Batter Sierra

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – While skies began to clear over the Bay Area Wednesday, the Sierra Nevada continued to be pounded by strong winds and steady snowfall.

A winter storm advisory remained in effect with the National Weather Service forecasted 4 to 8 inches of new snow below 7,000 feet and a foot or more on the higher slopes.

Combined with 30 mph winds, the storm forced Highway 80 to closed again late Wednesday morning because of poor visibility and later reopen with just a single lane.

Caltrans reported that the freeway had reopened in both directions at Donnor Pass shortly after 1 p.m., though traffic was still required to travel single file. Chain controls and a strict 30 mph speed limit were being enforced.

EYE ON THE STORM:

The other major traffic artery to Lake Tahoe – Highway 50 – remained under strict chain control and travel was slow.

The weather service said that over the last seven days 144 inches – 12 feet of new snow – had fallen at the Heavenly Mountain ski resort while Kirkwood had 133 inches, Northstar 122 inches and Squaw Valley had 94 inches.

The heavy snowfall has triggered the highest warning level for avalanches to be issued by the Sierra Avalanche Center.

Avalanche mitigation teams from the Sierra ski resorts were busy easing conditions on runs. On Tuesday, a team Alpine Meadows set off a small controlled avalanche that crashed into a local home.

Alpine Meadows resident Steven Siig said he’s hunkered down with his three children, wife and large German shepherd after a controlled avalanche set off by ski patrol encased his home in snow Tuesday.

The independent cinematographer, producer and theatre owner shared photos on Facebook showing snow bursting through his door and burying his home.

He said he has received plenty of offers to help and places to stay after posting photos of the avalanche aftermath.

Siig said he’s seen a few major avalanches while living in this home– but this one may have been the biggest. Still, he told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday that he felt safe because he was warned it was coming.

The high winds and high avalanche danger forced ski resorts to cut back on their run or close all together.

At Bear Valley Mountain, the condition forced the resort to close on Wednesday and also on Thursday.

“We had to suspend operations again today (Wednesday),” said Mattly, a safety director for the resort on its Facebook page. “Due to the heavy snowfall, the heavy winds and the high avalanche danger.”

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