TRUCKEE (CBS SF) — A frigid weather front, churned to life in the icy waters of the Gulf of Alaska, slammed into the Sierra Friday burying the region under more than a foot of snow, shutting down both Highway 50 and I-80 because of white-out blizzard conditions for much of the day.
Both I-80 and Highway 50 were reopened by officials at about 6 p.m.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Tahoe area running through noon on Sunday. Forecasters predicted another 1-to-3 feet of new snow could fall at lower elevations with 3-to-6 foot accumulations above 7000 feet.
Interstate 80 remained closed for hours due to whiteout conditions, Caltrans said earlier Friday. The closure is in effect eastbound from Colfax to the Nevada state line. For tractor-trailers, eastbound I-80 was closed at Applegate.
“They have ordered up a large blower to try and clear the pass,” Placer County Sheriff Lt. Andrew Scott said in a tweet he posted with a video of a snow-covered I-80. “Please stay home.”
The issue Friday was not just snowfall, but also hurricane-force winds whipping through the passes.
“There will be winds gusting as high as 130 mph today across Sierra Ridges with gusts to 60 mph across the ridgelines the remainder of the weekend,” the weather service warned.
However, Caltrans announced at 6 p.m. that I-80 was being reopened in both directions for passenger vehicles only. Officials warned that chain controls were in effect from Alta to the Nevada state line.
A short time later, Caltrans announced that traffic was moving on Highway 50 as well.
The latest front has triggered a wild swing in temperatures. Over the last several days, a warm atmospheric river elevated the snow levels to above 8,000 feet, dumping a mixture of rain and sleet on the lower elevations.
Early Friday, the snow level was rapidly dropping and expected to fall to around 2,000 feet over the weekend. Over the last 24 hours, the National Weather Service reported at 9 a.m. Friday that over the last 24 hours, Homewood ski resort had gotten 38 inches of new snow, Incline Village 29.5 inches, Alpine Meadows 28 and Squaw Valley 24.
“There doesn’t really look like any break in snowfall in the mountains,” through early Sunday morning,” said weather service meteorologist Emily Heller.
In a news release, Squaw Valley officials said they were nearing historic numbers for February’s snowfall.
“With over two feet of snow in the last 24 hours we are headed towards a record-breaking February: Our February snowfall record is 196 inches in 2017. This February we have received 175 inches, or nearly 15 feet, just 21 inches away from the record with multiple feet expected in the coming days.”
“With 432 inches, or 36 feet, of total snowfall this season we are on the verge of hitting our total annual average snowfall of 450 inches just halfway through the season.”