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Blizzard conditions close major highways and roads in Lake Tahoe area, trigger avalanche

A car is buried under snow at Palisades Tahoe ski resort on Monday.
(Matt Peterson / Palisades Tahoe)
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After another winter storm pummeled Northern California this week with relentless rain and snow, blizzard conditions shuttered most major highways and roads in the Greater Lake Tahoe region and sent an avalanche crashing into an apartment building.

A blizzard warning was issued for Monday through Wednesday morning for portions of the Sierra Nevada, including Interstate 80 and Highway 50, the two major east-west highways that connect Northern California and Nevada.

“The roads are closed. All of them,” officials with the Mono County Sheriff’s Office warned drivers Tuesday. “There is no alternate route, back way, or secret route. It’s a blizzard, people. You cannot see your hand in front of your face, let alone a snow stake to guide your way. Stay home.”

Crews race to clear mountain highways after calling off plans to escort residents out because even cars with chains on their tires were getting stuck in snow.

March 1, 2023

These are the most recent conditions for the major roads in the Tahoe region and elsewhere in California.

  • Interstate 80 eastbound is closed as of 6 a.m. Wednesday at Applegate, northeast of Sacramento, and westbound was closed at the Nevada state line, with no estimated time of reopening, according to the California Highway Patrol.
  • Highway 58 over the Tehachapi Pass from Towerline Road to Exit 172 east of Mojave is closed as of 5:29 a.m., according to Caltrans.
  • Interstate 5 over the Grapevine is still closed as of 6:06 a.m. due to ice and snow.
  • Highway 395 is closed 11 miles north of Bishop to the junction with Highway 182 in Bridgeport as of 7:51 a.m. as snow removal efforts continue.
  • Highway 267 is closed as of 9:10 a.m. from 3.7 miles south of Truckee to Kings Beach due to snow. Chains or snow tires are required from Truckee to 37 miles south of Truckee in Placer County.
  • Highway 178 is closed from 4.1 miles east of the junction of Highway 184 to east of Democrat Springs due to a rock slide. The highway is also closed from from Weldon to State Route 14.

Ski resorts, including Palisades Tahoe, Northstar California Resort, Homewood Mountain Resort, Boreal Mountain, Heavenly Mountain, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Diamond Peak Resort and Sugar Bowl Resort, had operational delays on Wednesday.

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Donner Ski Ranch remained closed Wednesday and is planning to reopen Thursday.

The snow created other problems in the region.

‘This is the most any of us have ever seen,’ one ranger at Yosemite said. There is no date for reopening as officials respond to snowfall of up to 15 feet deep in some areas.

March 1, 2023

On Tuesday at about 7 p.m., an avalanche, measuring 200 yards wide and 25 feet deep, struck a three-story apartment building in Olympic Valley, according to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Everyone inside was evacuated and no one was injured.

Because of the increased avalanche risk, other areas in Olympic Valley were evacuated, including neighborhoods from Shirley Canyon Road to Granite Chief Road, Sandy Way from Wayne Road to Navajo Court, and between Summit Peak Road and Summer Place, according to the sheriff’s office.

Carl Bass, who splits his time living in Berkeley and Olympic Valley, said his son, Willie Bass, was in their house in Olympic Valley during the avalanche. Their house, which is about a mile away from the path of the avalanche, wasn’t affected but was included in the evacuation zone.

“We owned the house for about 20 years, so there’s always a risk of avalanche, but we haven’t seen any,” Bass said. “This storm was unusual. It was just a huge amount of super light, super dry powder. I looked and there was almost 4 feet of snow over the past 24 hours.”

Gary Wayne, who went with Willie Bass to Olympic Valley to hit the slopes on Friday, described the ski conditions as “awesome.”

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California’s deadly storm season continued Friday as the first of two atmospheric river storms descended on the state, prompting evacuation orders.

March 10, 2023

“We’re skiing in powder that’s way steep and really, really dry, fluffy, high-quality snow,” Wayne said. That’s very rare of the Sierras. I have to say I’ve been skiing here for 40 years — I’ve never seen conditions like this.”

On Tuesday, when all the ski resorts were closed, Wayne took a walk around the neighborhood and noticed that almost none of the roads were plowed. He spotted someone nearby trying to get several feet of snow off the hood of his car.

“It was coming down in the finest, driest perfect snow,” Wayne added. “It was coming down like that for about 40 straight hours.”

At the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, there were 22 delayed flights as of 9:30 a.m.

Drivers can use the Caltrans road information tool to check conditions on major highways.

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