The Sierra Nevada got a second day of near-record snowfall Sunday, bringing weekend accumulations to as much as 7 feet and closing highways through the mountains between California and Nevada.
Interstate 80 was closed during the afternoon over Donner Pass after being open for just 10 hours earlier in the day, and U.S. Highway 50 was closed for a second day across Echo Summit, the California Highway Patrol said.
Even when I-80 was open, traffic was very light in blowing snow and slippery conditions, police said. The two highways connect Sacramento, Calif., to the Reno-Tahoe area.
“The snowplows can’t keep up with the amount of snow coming down,” said patrol dispatcher Marsha Iverson in Truckee, Calif., along I-80 about 30 miles west of Reno and at an elevation of about 6,000 feet.
Balu Sharma of San Jose, Calif., was one of hundreds of stalled travelers. He had driven to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., last week, planning just one day of skiing.
“I was supposed to have gone back home Friday night, but I’m still here,” Sharma said Sunday from his Matterhorn Motel room.
Jeff Kindred of Auburn, Calif., was stranded at Truckee.
“I just hope they get it cleared and plowed soon,” he said. “I don’t mind waiting, but I’d like to be home by Christmas.”
Reno-Tahoe International Airport was in service Sunday. On Saturday, incoming flights were diverted to Las Vegas and Sacramento.
Most ski resorts in the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe have gotten 6 to 7 feet of snow since late Friday afternoon and an additional 2 feet were expected by this morning, the National Weather Service said.
“It’s just incredible. We knew the storm had the potential for heavy snow, but there’s no way we could have known we would get that much out of it,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ray Collins
Collins said 24-hour snowfall amounts were close to records at some Tahoe locations, although he didn’t have exact figures. The 7 feet of new snow at Alpine Meadows included 4 feet in 24 hours, he said.
“It’s obvious this was a tremendous snow producer,” he said. “It’s uncommon to get this much snow in one storm, but it does happen every once in a while.”