A California snowstorm descends on the Sierra Nevada as Tahoe ski resorts close

Residents were sheltering in place, ski resorts closed shop, and 12 feet of snow and wind gusts were expected as a major snowstorm hit the Sierra Nevada on Friday. Over 100 miles per hour.

The Sierra Avalanche Center has issued an avalanche warning for the central Sierra. Yosemite National Park officials He said the park will be closed to noon on Sunday. Several ski resorts in the area announced they would be closed for at least a day.

The storm system rarely provoked Cyclone In Madera, central California, an elementary school was damaged Friday while students were inside, said Brian Oakes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.

More than 57,000 California customers were without power as rain and heavy snow continued Friday evening. PowerOutage.us. In Tahoe City, streets were mostly empty of cars as snow piled up on the roads as there were reports of brief power outages. One resident, Tristan Quinn, said he plans to go grocery shopping by snowmobile.

“It's definitely for the novelty, but sometimes it actually feels like a safer, smarter way to travel because you're not on the roads and you're letting the plows do their job,” said Mr. Quinn said. He runs a local belt company.

Meteorologists began sounding warnings earlier this week about “life-threatening blizzard conditions” expected through Sunday in the Sierra Nevada, the vast and varied mountain range that runs along California's spine.

On Friday evening, a portion of Interstate 80, a major artery through the Sierra, was closed indefinitely because of “spin outs, high winds and low visibility.” California Highway Patrol said.

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By Thursday, forecasters were urging drivers to avoid traveling in choppy winds with low visibility. “Your safe travel window has ended in the Sierra,” the National Weather Service in Reno, Nev., posted on social media. “It's best to hide where you are.”

One resort, Palisades Tahoe, said it saw “heavy” snow and gusts of up to 100 mph Thursday night. In videos posted on social media by the resort, the ski lifts were blurred through a white blanket, and the sky and ground were indistinguishable from each other.

The resort, which was packed last weekend for a big ski competition, had turned into “an absolute ghost town” by Friday, said Veronica Bergholts, manager of the coffee shop at Palisades Tahoe. He said the resort will be closed on Saturday as well.

Conditions are expected to continue to worsen overnight as cold air moves in, said Justin Collins, a meteorologist with the weather service in Reno. In addition to the snow that has already fallen, this could mean another five feet of snow on the mountain ridges.

He said more snow is expected Saturday morning before “brightening up a bit” in the afternoon.

Forecasters have reserved blizzard warnings, like the one in effect on Friday, only for the most severe blizzards. The weather service in Reno has only issued eight blizzard warnings in the past 12 years.

The last similar warning was almost exactly a year ago, when a powerful blizzard dumped more than two feet of snow on the Lake Tahoe area in less than a day. Snow piled so thickly on roofs that when another storm threatened more snow and rain, residents had to scramble to put enough weight on their roofs to keep them from caving in.

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The same storm system caught officials and residents in Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains, trapping people in snow-buried homes for days.

In villages around Lake Tahoe, residents and business owners say they know how to prepare for more snow.

“It becomes part of the winter experience,” said Heather Swan, president of Mountain Hardware & Sports in Truckee, Calif., which sells items including fishing gear, shovels and power tools.

Ms Swan said the store had arranged for extra deliveries earlier in the week to avoid the most treacherous travel times. Residents line up inside the store to buy special bolts, shovels and shear pins for snowblowers that are prone to breaking when the machines are used in heavy, wet snow conditions.

Shannon Parrish, owner of the grocer, which has stores in Truckee and Incline Village, Nev., said both stores were open Friday morning, but things could change quickly. He said Friday and Saturday deliveries were canceled and employees traveling from Reno were told to stay home.

Mrs. who lives in Truckee. Parrish said eight to nine inches of snow had fallen on his home by Thursday night.

“It's very peaceful,” she said. “I think people are willing to wait.”

But locals are also starting to look forward to this year's ski season. Palisades Tahoe, the resort, announced it will remain open until the end of May.

“It's a lot of fun,” said Dave Wilderotter, owner of Tahoe Dave's, a ski and snowboard shop. “Skiing in the morning and golfing in the afternoon is fun.”

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On Friday, a few visitors in Tahoe City got an early start skiing in the backyard of a rental house before the storm worsened.

John Yoon Contributed report.

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