7 p.m. Friday update: Continuous Storm Coverage | SierraSun.com
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7 p.m. Friday update: Continuous Storm Coverage

Sun Staff Writers Jenny Goldsmith, Greyson Howard, Patrick McCartney, and the Associated Press

As predicted by the National Weather Service but three hours late, heavy rain turned to snow in the Tahoe-Truckee area around 3 p.m. Friday. Intense snowfall piled more than 6 inches of snow on top of slush and rain puddles by 6, making driving conditions hazardous.

Strong, gusty winds continued throughout the day.

Interstate 80 is now closed per Caltrans reports and roads around the Reno area are becoming treacherous. Blizzard conditions are widespread in the Sierra with zero visibilities, the National Weather Service reported.



A blizzard warning remains in effect until 10 a.m. Saturday.

The National Weather Service is predicting more snow on Sunday, and additional frontal systems of varying strength in the extended period. In its detailed forecast Friday afternoon, Weather Service forecasters predicted the current storm would drop 31 to 45 inches of snow on Truckee-Tahoe by Saturday night. In a later forecast, the National Weather Service scaled back the snowfall prediction to 22 to 36 inches.



The Truckee-area experienced several weather-related power outages on Friday afternoon, but the Truckee Donner Public Utility District was able to repair the outages within 15 to 20 minutes, district officials said.

“We have personnel standing by for the weekend,” said Steve Tervino, the utility’s electricity superintendent. “We’ll manage the outages as we go.”

The California Highway Patrol reopened westbound Interstate 80 Friday after holding traffic in the late-morning due to low visibility, said CalTrans spokesperson Shelly Chernicki.

“We’ll see what we’ve got tomorrow at this time,” Chernicki said. “It’s going to be an interesting night.”

Delays on the Interstate will remain throughout the weekend due to spinouts and chain control stations, CHP Officer Steve Skeen said Friday.

“There are chain controls from Boca to Drum right now and I expect controls to lower down the mountain,” Skeen said.

Additionally, rockslides between Floriston and Hirshdale Road have contributed to delays on Interstate 80.

CalTrans employees are continuously being dispatched to remove rocks and other obstructions from the roadway to keep traffic flowing, Skeen said.

There were no reports of vehicles being struck by rocks as of Friday evening, but Skeen said he advises motorists to be on the lookout.

“They’re smaller rocks, about the size of softballs,” he said.

* Snow removal crews follow a prioritized plan for clearing streets of snow.-

* Driveway approaches may become blocked after snow plowing.

* Town ordinance requires residents, business owners or contractors who are clearing snow on private property to not deposit snow into public roads or rights-of-way.

* Residents should set their trash containers far enough away from the

street to avoid damage by snowplows and blowers, and to prevent the

containers from being buried in snow.- This should be in effect during and

after storms, when snow blowers widen the roadways.

* Snow removal crews sometimes receive requests from residents that

their particular streets be plowed immediately because they have a medical appointment or emergency. In the case of an emergency, residents should call 9-1-1. Plowing crews will provide top priority assistance to any rescue unit responding to emergencies. However, a previously scheduled doctors appointment does not constitute a “medical emergency”.

* Plowing begins as soon as there is snowfall accumulation of 3 inches or more.

* Limited sanding is done during a snowfall because falling snow covers sand and it is scraped away on subsequent plowing passes, requiring additional sanding.

* Subdivision roads may not be plowed if parked vehicles or other obstructions interfere with the safe and continuous operation of snow removal equipment.- Equipment will return to plow after parked vehicles orobstructions are removed.

* School bus routes are given special attention.

* Operators will return to widen roads as conditions warrant.- During a major storm, cleanup operations may be on-going for three to four days after the storm.

* Mailboxes installed along roadways are at the risk of the owner

By Samantha Young

Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO (AP) ” A fierce arctic storm pounded California Friday with heavy rain, whipping winds and threats to drench mudslide-prone canyons already charred by wildfire.

Authorities warned truckers traveling in blizzard-like conditions over mountain passes in the Sierra Nevada to hunker down, and some ski resorts closed because of hazardous conditions.

“It’s a whiteout here,” said Neil Erasmus, general manager of Ice Lake Lodge and Rainbow Lodge in Soda Springs. “We’re plowing and grooming, plowing and grooming to keep us from being buried in.”

Forecasters said the mountains could see 10 feet of snow by storms end. A trio of storms was expected throughout the state through the weekend.

Winds howled in the mountain areas, gusting up to 85 miles an hour, and in the Sacramento Valley, gusts topped 65 miles an hour, the strongest in a decade.

The California Highway Patrol cautioned drivers and encouraged them to stay off the roads. Parts of highways from the Sacramento area to the San Francisco Bay Area were closed because of debris blocking lanes. Ferry service in the San Francisco Bay was interrupted, as well.

“It isn’t the weather that causes these collisions, it’s the way people drive in them,” said Sgt. Les Bishop, a spokesman for California Highway Patrol. “It’s no secret that we’ve got a major storm rolling in, and it’s everybody’s responsibility to drive in a safe manner.”

Power was knocked out to hundreds of thousands of residents across Northern California, from the Bay Area to the Central Valley.

“Because of the strong winds and heavy rains, restoration is taking longer than normal,” said Darlene Chiu, a spokeswoman for Pacific Gas and Electric.

Homeowners rushed to stack sandbags around houses, and scurried to stock up on last-minute provisions.

“People were waiting in line for shopping carts,” said Barbara Sholle, of Mammoth Lakes. Sholle went to the supermarket after receiving a call from the eastern Sierra ski town’s reverse-911 system. She waited an hour to pay for her groceries amid a crush of residents.

In Southern California, the storm was gathering strength off the coast and was expected to strike the region by mid-afternoon, National Weather Service forecaster Andrew Rorke said.

“We’re watching it really blossom on satellite,” he said.

The storm was expected to pound Southern California with 2-4 inches of rain overnight in the valleys, with 6 inches possible in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and up to 12 inches overnight in the south-facing mountains from Ventura County south to San Diego.

“The last rain we had, it all went under my foundation and I don’t like that. It was flowing under my house,” said Cindy Darling, a receptionist at the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce who got sandbags from the local fire department to put above her house. “Everything up here’s on a hill, so you have to do something.”

Authorities in Orange County issued a voluntary evacuation order for residents of fire-scarred Modjeska and Silverado canyons beginning Friday afternoon. The order also calls for the mandatory evacuation of large animals from the mudslide-prone canyons, where 15 homes burned last fall in a 28,000-acre wildfire.

Ocean tides were expected to swell to 30 feet, prompting the U.S. Coast Guard to caution boaters to remain in port.

No planes were taking off or landing at Sacramento International Airport because of high winds, but the airport remained open, said spokeswoman Gina Swankie.

The U.S. Forest Service issued an avalanche warning for Mount Shasta, in the Cascade Range in far Northern California.

“If you don’t have to go out this weekend, it might be a nice weekend to stay at home after the holidays,” said Frank McCarton, chief deputy director of the California Office of Emergency Services.

The state opened its emergency operations center Friday morning to coordinate storm response.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties have deployed swift-water rescue teams in case torrential rains bring flash floods and mudslides.

Several ski resorts weren’t taking any chances, with Heavenly Mountain Resort at South Lake Tahoe, Alpine Meadows Ski Area in Tahoe City, Mt. Rose Ski Resort near Reno and Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite National Park shutting down for the day.

“It’s just really, really windy and we don’t feel it’s safe conditions for our operators or the public,” Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Laura Ryan said.

Snow began falling in Tuolumne Meadows Thursday night, and a steady rain was pelting the Yosemite Valley by Friday morning, Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

Residents and local officials from Sacramento to Manteca planned to patrol the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta during high tide midday Friday to watch for levee breaks, but weren’t predicting major floods, said Ron Baldwin, director of emergency operations for San Joaquin County.

“We’re going to have to keep an eye on the water and the high tides but we’re hopeful we can get through this without any problems,” Baldwin said. “That said, no one’s going home.”

“””

Power on the West Shore of Tahoe was restored around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, according to a Sierra Pacific Power spokesman.

The outage resulted when a tree fell through a power line around 2:45 p.m. as the first wave of wind and snow hit the Tahoe-Truckee area, said Karl Walquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Power company, which services much of the Tahoe Basin and portions of the Truckee area.

Only four small outages have occurred in the North Tahoe-area since yesterday’s episode, affecting only a few customers, Walquist said.

Sierra Pacific Power has set up an additional crew from Reno for extra support if necessary, and emergency equipment is in place.

“We’ve been fortunate so far and we’re in pretty good shape,” Walquist said. “We’ve had other large storms similar to this so the crew people are certainly familiar with the circumstances, we’ll just have to see what the weather brings.”

The California Highway Patrol is still holding westbound traffic on Interstate 80 as of 10:30 a.m. at the old agricultural inspection station and at the Donner Lake Interchange.

The holdup is due to low visibility over the summit, said CalTrans spokesperson Shelly Chernicki.

Only 200 vehicles have passed Auburn as of 10 a.m. on Friday morning ” a low amount of travelers ” which means people have observed the warnings and are not driving unnecessarily, Chernicki said.

Experts are predicting the highest level of avalanche risk today in the backcountry.

The Sierra Avalanche Center has issued an extreme avalanche danger warning, resulting from high hourly snowfall rates predicted later in the day.

“They’re predicting at least 6 inches an hour, which is two to three times as fast as normal up here,” said Andy Anderson, avalanche forecaster. “The danger is as high as it can get.”

This means anybody thinking about heading into the backcountry should stay off avalanche terrain, away from run-outs below avalanche terrain, or even stick to the ski resorts for safety, Anderson said.

“I’m sure there will be lots of explosives going off today along the highways and at the resorts,” Anderson said.

Anderson described avalanche terrain as slopes steeper than 30 degrees, as well as slopes that connect to steeper slopes.

Snow, rain, wind buffet Sierra, Nevada

By Sandra Chereb

Associated Press Writer

RENO, Nev. (AP) ” Travel in the Sierra Nevada was dicey at best early Friday, and authorities said it would only get worse as the brunt of a potent winter storm moved into the region packing a powerful punch.

A rare blizzard warning for the mountains and Lake Tahoe region remained in effect until Saturday morning, and chains or snow tires were required on all vehicles in mountain passes.

Forecasters said several feet of snow was expected, along with winds gusting to 150 mph reducing visibility to zero.

“It’s been several years since we’ve seen a storm this impressive,” said Chris Jordan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

Before daylight Friday, emergency managers warned it was likely that Interstate 80 over Donner Summit would be closed later in the day.

West of Reno in Truckee, Calif., city officials said the American Red Cross would open a storm shelter at Sierra Mountain Middle School to assist stranded motorists or others in need of a safe haven from the elements.

The storm arrived Friday in the Reno area in the form of rain with blustery winds, but forecasters said the precipitation would turn to snow by afternoon or early evening as a cold air mass from the Gulf of Alaska collides with subtropical moisture coming in from the Pacific.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for western and northern Nevada, where forecasters said 8-10 inches of snow was expected overnight in the Reno-Carson City area.

Foothill regions could see more than a foot.

Residents across the region stocked up Thursday on food and emergency provisions.

At Mountain Hardware and Sports in Truckee, business was brisk.

“Ice melt, snow blowers are going out ” snow shovels are going crazy,” said Robert Torres, a manager at the store in the scenic Sierra town just east of Donner Summit.

On the Net:

National Weather Service: http://www.weather.gov/

Road Conditions: http://safetravelusa.com/nv/

The California Highway Patrol is holding westbound traffic on Interstate 80 as of 9:30 a.m. ” near the old agricultural inspection station in Truckee and at the Donner Lake Interchange.

“We’re holding because there are a bunch of jack-knifed big rigs near the Donner Lake Interchange,” said Officer Steve Skeen.


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