LAKE TAHOE (CBS/AP) — More than a foot of snow fell at Tahoe-area ski resorts since Wednesday night, with as much as 30 inches at the top of Mammoth Mountain about 120 miles south of the lake.
It looked like a winter wonderland outside but, in the streets, it was more of a nightmare.
“It was difficult. We had a couple crashes, luckily not too bad. Lots of disabled vehicles,” said Officer Gavin Graham with the Truckee CHP office.
The National Weather Service issued a backcountry avalanche warning Thursday for most of the central Sierra, including Lake Tahoe, and additional storm warnings and advisories into Saturday for the Reno-Tahoe area.
More than 2 feet of snow was recorded on the ridge tops early Thursday in the southern Sierra south of the mountain lake where as much as 5 feet is possible by the weekend.
The first of a series of storms moving into the Sierra dropped 14 inches at the Mount Rose Ski Resort between Reno and Tahoe early Thursday, 13 inches at Northstar near Truckee, California, and 19 to 30 inches at parts of Mammoth Mountain along the Nevada-California line, the service said.
A half-foot or more of snow was reported at a number of other Tahoe-area resorts, including Squaw Valley near Tahoe City, California, and Heavenly Ski Resort at south Lake Tahoe.
A winter storm warning expires at 4 a.m. Friday for the Lake Tahoe area, but another one goes into effect from 11 p.m. Friday through 3 p.m. Saturday with more than another foot of snow in the forecast.
A winter weather advisory goes into effect Saturday from 4 a.m. to noon for Reno, Sparks, Carson City and surrounding areas where up to 2 inches is expected on the valley floors and up to 4 inches in the foothills.
New winter storm warnings also were issued for Lassen and eastern Plumas and Sierra counties in California north of Reno from 11 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday where up to 10 inches of new snow is possible.
A winter storm warning will be replaced with a winter advisory at 4 a.m. Friday through 3 p.m. Saturday in the central Sierra where more than 2 feet of snow already has fallen on the ridge tops.
The service warned the forecast for heavy snow into the weekend combined with high winds may result in widespread avalanches. Wind gusts over 70 mph were forecast in exposed higher terrain.
The Nevada Department of Transportation briefly closed part of the Mount Rose Highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe Thursday morning for avalanche control operations. Officials say they planned to shoot 30 sticks of dynamite into the mountainside with a remote-controlled air cannon to trigger small avalanches.
The Nevada Highway Patrol said chain restrictions were required in some areas, and forecasters urged drivers in the high country to avoid travel if possible.
“If you don’t need to come up here, if it’s non-essential, don’t,” said Graham. “People think there’s a break and they can sneak up, but then they get stuck in traffic and then stuck in the next storm, waiting hours on the highway.”
That’s tough advice to follow for many who are excited about a weekend of fresh powder and the prospect of new runs opening.
Northstar reported 18 inches by lunch with plenty still falling.
“We are really excited about this storm,” said Northstar spokesperson Stephanie Meyer. “Our patrol is actually up on the mountain looking at each storm several times a day … to see what new terrain we can open.”
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