Major Snowstorm Starts to Pound Mountains Around Lake Tahoe - The World News

Major Snowstorm Starts to Pound Mountains Around Lake Tahoe

A major snowstorm bore down Friday on the Sierra Nevada, including the Lake Tahoe area, with as much as 10 feet of snow expected at higher elevations. Forecasters issued dire warnings about trying to drive through blustering winds and whiteout conditions, and Yosemite National Park was closed.

“Your safe travel window is over in the Sierra,” the National Weather Service in Reno, Nev., posted on social media. “Best to hunker down where you are.”

The National Park Service said that visitors who were already in Yosemite on Friday morning must leave by noon. Many ski resorts in the region announced that they were closing for the day.

One resort, Palisades Tahoe, posted on social media that it had seen “intense” snowfall and winds of 100 miles an hour. In videos posted by the resort, ski lifts were faintly visible through a blanket of white, and the sky and the ground were indistinguishable from each other.

The resort, which was packed last weekend for a major ski competition, had become “an absolute ghost town” by Friday, said Veronica Berkholtz, a manager of the coffee shop at Palisades Tahoe.

Meteorologists began sounding rare alarms earlier this week about “life-threatening blizzard conditions” expected in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, saying the approaching storm could drop more than three feet of snow through Sunday.

On Friday, forecasters said the danger of avalanches in backcountry areas was likely to be “high to extreme” for the Central Sierra, the heart of the huge and varied mountain range that runs along the spine of California.

Forecasters reserve blizzard warnings like the one in effect on Friday for only the most severe snowstorms. The National Weather Service in Reno has issued only eight blizzard warnings in the last 12 years.

Almost exactly a year ago, a powerful snowstorm dumped more than two feet of snow on the Lake Tahoe area in less than a day. The snow piled up so thickly on rooftops that when a following storm threatened more snow and rain, residents had to scramble to shovel off enough weight to keep their roofs from caving in.

The same storm system caught officials and residents in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California off guard, trapping people for days in houses that were buried to the eaves in snow.

In the villages surrounding Lake Tahoe, residents and business owners say that they know how to prepare for lots of snow.

“It becomes part of the winter experience,” said Heather Svahn, the president of Mountain Hardware & Sports, a store in Truckee, Calif., that sells items including fishing gear, shovels and power tools.

Ms. Svahn said the store arranged for extra supplies to be delivered earlier in the week, to avoid the most treacherous travel periods. Residents have been stopping into the store, she said, to buy shovels and shear pins, special bolts for snowblowers that are prone to breaking when the machines are used in heavy, wet snow conditions.

Not much snow had fallen in Truckee yet, she said Friday morning, but she knew that it was coming.

“It’s only a matter of time,” Ms. Svahn said, before the snowstorm crested the mountain peaks to the west and reached the town.

Shannon Parrish, the owner of Grocery Outlet, which has stores in Truckee and Incline Village, Nev., said that both stores were open Friday morning, but that the situation could change quickly. Deliveries were canceled for Friday and Saturday, she said, and employees who commute from Reno were told to stay home.

Ms. Parrish, who lives in Truckee, said eight to nine inches of snow had fallen at her house Thursday night.

“It’s really quiet,” she said. “I think people are prepared to wait it out.”

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