(UPDATE) Whiteout: Blizzard warning in effect until 10 p.m.; 10-16 inches expected overnight at lake level
February 4, 2019
Update: 5:30 p.m. — 10-16 inches expected at lake level by morning
The Truckee-Tahoe area is under a blizzard warning until 10 p.m. tonight, according to the National Weather Service Office in Reno, which said areas around Tahoe’s west shore could receive up to a foot and a half of snow by morning.
The storm, which has already dumped several feet of snow in the Sierra and is forecast to add another 1-2 feet at higher elevations, resulted in the second blizzard warning for the area in 2019 and sixth since 2008.
"The brunt of the storm will start to taper off tomorrow late morning into the afternoon,” said Meteorologist Chris Johnston. “But, there will be residual (snow) showers through the overnight hours, Tuesday into Wednesday."
Following the current winter storm, the Truckee-Tahoe area will see another chance of snow, according to Johnston, from a series of storms expected to hit the region this weekend.
"The front end of early next week, another round of disturbances are expected to affect the region,” said Johnston. “The first wave looks to be more of a glancing blow — just kind of skirting across the Sierra. Whereas, the second round, which will be centered around Sunday, will have a better shot at affecting both Sierra and Western Nevada. Details are still up in the air with it being so far out."
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— Caltrans District 3 (@CaltransDist3) February 5, 2019
Interstate 80 remains closed in both directions from Applegate to the Nevada state line, according to California Department of Transportation, due to whiteout conditions.
Blizzard conditions have brought closures to roads and schools throughout the Truckee-Tahoe area today as a major winter storm grips the region.
The National Weather Service Office in Reno issued a blizzard warning for Truckee and the greater Lake Tahoe area until 10 p.m. this evening, marking the sixth time since 2008 and second time this year the region has been issued a blizzard warning.
The weather service's winter storm warning will also be in effect until 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Additional snow accumulations of 2 to 4 feet at lake level are expected, according to the weather service, with the heaviest snow and most severe weather forecast for this evening. Wind gusts as high as 50 mph are expected, including gusts of up to 100 mph over Sierra Nevada ridges.
Travel: Whiteout conditions
Travel is highly discouraged at this time.
As of 9:45 a.m. a significant stretch of Interstate 80 is closed, according to the California Department of Transportation, due to whiteout conditions on Donner Summit. Westbound traffic is being held at the Nevada state line and Truckee, and eastbound traffic is being turned around at Applegate. Highway 267 is also closed between Northstar and Kings Beach due to whiteout conditions.
"This is a life threatening situation," said the weather service in its blizzard warning. "Do not attempt to travel! Road crews and first responders may not be able to rescue you. Stay indoors until the snow and wind subside. Even a short walk could be deadly if you become disoriented."
For latest road conditions, visit http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/.
Current weather conditions on I-80. Please drive safely.
— Caltrans District 3 (@CaltransDist3) February 4, 2019
All Tahoe-Truckee schools and offices are closed for a snow day, according to the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
Wind is impacting local ski resorts as well with several locations reporting that lifts are on hold.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows reported 21 inches of fresh snow in the past 24 hours for a total of 42 inches at Squaw's upper mountain from the series of storms, which hit the area late Friday. Alpine Meadows opened to 18 inches of new snow at its upper mountain, and reported 33 inches since Friday.
Northstar California Resort was hit with 18 inches of snow in the last 24 hours, giving the mountain 38 inches of snow since Friday night.
Boreal Mountain California has been hit with 2 feet of snow since yesterday and reported 50 inches of snow from the storms. Nearby, Sugar Bowl said it received 17 inches of snow in the past 24 hours.
Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort picked up 18 inches of fresh snow.
In South Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort had 19 inches of snow fall in the past 24 hours. The mountain reported 43 inches of snow from the series of storms.
South of the lake, Mammoth Mountain Ski area reported the highest storm totals of any resort with 71 inches of snow since Friday.
The Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee said high avalanche danger will persist through today and into the night.
"Gale force (southwest) winds along with additional snow today and tonight will add to existing fragile wind slabs and cornices from yesterday," said the avalanche center in its daily forecast. "Large wind slab avalanches could occur naturally and travel far distances down into mature forests. Travel in, near, or below avalanche terrain is not advised."
Storm slab avalanches are also very likely near and below tree line terrain, according to the avalanche center, as high intensity snowfall rates of 3 inches per hour or more are forecast during this storm today and tonight.
"Weaknesses could develop within the new storm snow today or snow that fell during the last (two) days," said the avalanche center in its forecast. "Avalanches that involved deeper layers in the storm snow, or the potentially buried surface hoar layer, would be much larger in size and have severe consequences. Large and destructive storm slab avalanches that occur naturally could run long distances through mature forests. Travel in, below, or near avalanche terrain is not recommended."
Avalanches have been reported in the Mount Rose area, said the center, and other signs of instability have been noted from Shirley Canyon (Squaw Valley area).
Snow is expected to continue to fall in the Truckee-Tahoe area through Tuesday afternoon. Temperatures in the area are forecast to stay below 30 degrees.
The region will dry out Wednesday and Thursday, but will remain cold with overnight lows in single digits.
Friday and into the weekend could bring more snow, according to the weather service, as a series of cold systems could bring several more than a half foot of snow to the area.