Update: National Weather Service issues blizzard warning for Truckee-Tahoe area; chain controls in place on I-80 | SierraSun.com

Update: National Weather Service issues blizzard warning for Truckee-Tahoe area; chain controls in place on I-80

The National Weather Service Office in Reno has issued a blizzard warning for the Truckee-Tahoe area, beginning at 7 p.m. this evening and lasting until 7 a.m. Thursday.

"We only use blizzard warnings for systems that are at the top end," said Chris Johnston, meteorologist for the National Weather Service Office in Reno. "We've issued only five since 2008. They are saved for only the most serious situations."

Little to no visibility, high winds, and up to 5 feet of snow is expected through the night at elevations above 7,000 feet, according to the weather service, with wind gusts along the ridge tops as high as 110 mph.

At elevations between 6,000 and 7,000 feet, the weather service has forecast up to 2 feet of snow by Thursday morning. Lake Tahoe is expected to receive 8 to 18 inches of snow.

Blizzard Warning: ‘Do not travel unless it's an emergency’

The onset of wind began early afternoon in Truckee and snow is expected to begin falling later in the day.

"Once that wave starts … conditions will rapidly deteriorate," said Johnston. "That strong push looks like it will happen 4 to 6 p.m."

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As the storm moves in, the weather service has cautioned against travel in the area.

"Do not travel unless it's an emergency," said Johnston.

If forced to travel, the weather service said drivers should expect extended delays and should prepare accordingly.

"Avoid travel if possible, you could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours," the weather service posted to its website. "You could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours. If you must travel, prepare for long delays and carry an emergency kit with extra food, water and clothing.

"If you stay at home, have a backup plan in case of power outages."

Snow Report

This morning, the Truckee Tahoe Airport reported 20 inches of snow from yesterday's storm. Tahoe City received 11.5 inches of snow and Incline Village was hit with 16 inches.

Many of the area's ski resorts began spinning lifts this morning with more than 2 feet of fresh snow.

Squaw Valley was hit with 29 inches of snowfall on the upper mountain. Alpine Meadows received 24 inches of snow, as did Boreal Mountain California and Soda Springs.

Northstar California Resort and Sugar Bowl each reported 23 inches of fresh snow this morning. Tahoe Donner Cross-Country Ski Center picked up 10 inches and the Downhill Ski Resort received 26 inches.

Avalanche Alert

Last night, the California Department of Transportation reported westbound traffic on Interstate 80 at the California-Nevada state line was being turned around due to an avalanche.

Snow from the incident was quickly cleared away, reopening the lane, but more travel delays are expected today and into the night, as conditions will bring an increased risk of avalanches in the region.

The Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee issued an avalanche warning for the central Sierra Mountains and greater Lake Tahoe area, lasting from 4 p.m. today until 7 a.m. Friday.

Blizzard conditions and weak layers in snowpack have created very dangerous and complex avalanche conditions, according to the avalanche center, which will likely produce widespread and large avalanche activity in the mountains. The warning does not apply to ski areas or mountain highway corridors where avalanche mitigation exists.

Look Ahead

A winter storm warning will remain in effect in the area until 4 p.m. on Friday.

Heavy snowfall is forecast through Thursday morning, according to the weather service, and will continue through the day until tapering off in the early hours of Friday morning

Friday will be mostly cloudy with an overnight low of 22 degrees, the weather service said, followed by a partly sunny Saturday with a high near the mid 40s.

There will be a brief period of calm weather on Sunday morning, according to the weather service, followed by an increase in winds and a chance of snow over the Sierra passes.

Next week, cold and dry temperatures are expected for the region, which will likely last through the end of the month.

"It looks like it's going to struggle to get out of the 40s even down here in Reno for next week," Johnston said.

The next chance of snow for the Truckee-Tahoe area will come at the end of the month.

"A lot can change just because of how variable the pattern has been this winter," said Johnston on the likelihood of a storm hitting the area at the end of January.

Update: 5 p.m., chain controls in place on Interstate 80

Snow is falling on Interstate 80 at Donner Summit, according to the California Department of Transportation, and chain controls are again in place.

Chains are required on all vehicles except four-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from 2.5 miles east of the State Route 20 junction to Truckee. For westbound traffic, chains are required on all vehicles except those with four-wheel drive and snow tires on all four wheels from Cisco to Truckee. Chains are also required in both directions on Highway 267 from 5 miles south of Truckee to Kings Beach.

The department advises against travel during this time.