Rare blizzard conditions batter California mountains with heavy snow and powerful winds, making travel dangerous

Rare blizzard conditions batter California mountains with heavy snow and powerful winds, making travel dangerous - None - News

Winter Storm Brings Blizzard Conditions, Heavy Snow, and Power Outages to Northern California

A powerful winter storm is making its presence felt in Northern California with rare blizzard conditions, heavy snowfall, reduced visibilities, toppled power lines, and fierce winds. The storm is expected to last through the weekend, affecting millions of people across the Mountain West.

Dangerous Conditions in the Sierra Nevada

The storm is delivering heavy snow, poor visibility, and hurricane-force winds over 75 miles per hour to the Sierra Nevada region. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), travel is “impossible” due to blowing snow and whiteout conditions in much of the Sierra and parts of the northern ranges.

Visibility has already dropped to near-zero in some areas, making it impossible to see beyond a few feet or at all. The most extreme conditions are unfolding at the highest elevations, where snowfall rates could reach 3-5 inches per hour, threatening road closures and increasing avalanche risks.

Impacted Areas and Travel Disruptions

The brunt of the storm is not being felt in the area’s biggest cities but is making travel treacherous on major routes. About half a million people are under blizzard warnings, and another 6 million are under winter weather alerts across the region.

A stretch of Interstate 80 was shut down at the Nevada state line due to spinouts and low visibility, and Amtrak canceled its California Zephyr service from Chicago to San Francisco because it passes through Truckee, California, which is under a blizzard warning.

Power outages are also growing rapidly, with more than 14,000 reported in California and the number expected to jump significantly as winds strengthen. Wind alerts have been issued across nine western states, affecting nearly 20 million people.

Significant Snowfall at Lower Elevations

Unlike other winter storms, snow is falling well below pass levels for all impacted ranges. Close to a foot of snow is expected through the weekend for areas as low as 5,000 feet, and several inches are also possible for even lower elevations, including Reno, Nevada. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph will continue to blow through the lower elevations alongside snow.

avalanche Danger and Water Supply Impact

The NWS has issued high to extreme avalanche danger through Sunday afternoon in the Central Sierra and Greater Lake Tahoe area. The most significant snowpack in some areas is currently at 80% of the March average, which could jump sharply after this storm. Millions of people in the West depend on a melting snowpack for hydropower, irrigation, and drinking water.

Snow is an essential component of the region’s water supply, and this storm is expected to help make a difference in areas like the Sierra that were struggling with low snowpack levels earlier in the winter. The April snow survey, which officials use to forecast water resources for the rest of the year, will be impacted by this storm as well.