COLFAX, Calif. (AP) — A major Christmas weekend storm caused whiteout conditions and closed key highways amid blowing snow in mountains of Northern California and Nevada, with forecasters warning that travel in the Sierra Nevada could be difficult for several days.
Authorities near Reno reported a 20-car pileup on a snow-blow highway where drivers described whiteout conditions. And a 70-mile (112-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 80 was shut Sunday from Colfax, California, through the Lake Tahoe region to the Nevada state line. The California Department of Transportation also closed other mountain routes while warning of poor visibility and slippery conditions for drivers.
“Expect major travel delays on all roads,” the National Weather Service office in Reno, Nevada, said on Twitter. “Today is the type of day to just stay home if you can. More snow is on the way too!”
The weather service issued a winter storm warning for greater Lake Tahoe until 1 a.m. Tuesday because of possible “widespread whiteout conditions” and wind gusts that could top 45 mph (72 kph).
Turbulent weather stretched from Southern California to Seattle, where several of inches of snow fell on Sunday.
Rockslides caused by heavy rain closed more than 40 miles (64 kilometers) of coastal Highway 1 in the Big Sur region south of the San Francisco Bay Area. There was no estimate for the reopening of the scenic stretch that is frequently shut after wet weather.
The latest in a series of blustery storms hit Southern California with heavy rain and wind that flooded streets and knocked down power lines late Saturday. Powerful gusts toppled trees, damaged carports and blew a track-and-field shed from a Goleta high school into a front yard two blocks away, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. No injuries were reported.
More than 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) of rain fell over 24 hours in Santa Barbara County’s San Marcos pass, while Rocky Butte in San Luis Obispo County recorded 1.61 inches (4 centimeters), the weather service said.
Los Angeles International Airport said a “storm-related electrical issue” forced a partial closure of Terminal 5, causing post-Christmas passengers to divert to other terminals for certain services.
“Cancellations and delays are possible, so it will be important to check your flight status today if flying through Terminal 5,” LAX tweeted.
In the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, crews were repairing a section of State Route 18 that washed down a hillside after heavy rain late Thursday. The closure of the major route into the Big Bear ski resort area could last for weeks, officials said.
The continuing storms were welcomed in parched California, where the Sierra snowpack had been at dangerously low levels after weeks for dry weather. But the state Department of Water Resources reported on Christmas Eve that the snowpack was between 114% and 137% of normal across the range with more snow expected.
Before Sunday, 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow already had fallen at Homewood on Lake Tahoe’s west shore. About a foot (30 centimeters) was reported at Northstar near Truckee, California, and 10 inches (25 centimeters) at the Mount Rose ski resort on the southwest edge of Reno.
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that its deputies said as many as 20 cars were involved in a series of wrecks in the southbound lane of U.S. Route 395 near Lake Tahoe. Drivers described white-out conditions with poor visibility.
The sheriff’s department used social media posts to urge people to avoid travel and stay home. The messages included images of white, snow-crusted highways and cloudy skies.
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