Major interstate closed as dangerous winter storm pummels the Sierra Nevada

Major interstate closed as dangerous winter storm pummels the Sierra Nevada

Vehicles drive on Interstate 80 as snow falls north of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada during a powerful winter storm on Friday in Truckee, Calif.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Vehicles drive on Interstate 80 as snow falls north of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada during a powerful winter storm on Friday in Truckee, Calif.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

A dangerous blizzard expected to bring up to 10 feet of snow to parts of the Sierra Nevada has forced the closure of Yosemite National Park, at least nine Lake Tahoe ski resorts and a major interstate and disrupted power to thousands.

The California Highway Patrol said it shut down a more-than-50-mile stretch of Interstate 80 at 5 p.m. PT on Friday from the California-Nevada state line west of Reno to a small California reservoir northeast of Sacramento.

“AAANNNDD WE’RE CLOSED!! I-80 westbound traffic is being turned at the Nevada State line and eastbound I-80 traffic is being turned around at Drum Forebay due to spin outs, high winds, and low visibility,” the CHP posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The CHP gave no estimated time to reopen I-80.

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Reno, Nev., advised against travel, but urged people who must drive to pack an emergency kit in case they are stranded for extended periods.

How to handle a winter power outage

“Sierra travel will be treacherous through the weekend with life-threatening blizzard conditions through Saturday morning,” according to the NWS.

The agency said Friday that snow rates could hit 4-6 inches per hour through Saturday morning.

More than than 50,000 customers were without power in California and Nevada as of Saturday morning, according to Poweroutage.us.

The NWS issued a blizzard warning covering a 300-mile stretch from north of Lake Tahoe to south of Yosemite National Park, saying the storm is expected to bring “a long duration of high intensity snow and strong winds … with periods of whiteout conditions and near-zero visibility.”

Areas under the blizzard warning include:

California’s Lassen, eastern Plumas and eastern Sierra counties through 4 a.m. Sunday the Greater Lake Tahoe area through 10 a.m. Sunday Mono County through 10 a.m. Sunday

The storm system, which began to pummel the region on Thursday, brought wind gusts of up to 150 mph at the highest peaks of the Sierra. The NWS issued a high-wind warning for West Central Nevada, with gusty winds of up to 75 mph through 7 a.m. on Saturday.

The Reno forecast office also issued a backcountry avalanche warning through 5 p.m. on Sunday for the Central Sierra slopes, and advised against travel there.

Yosemite visitors are told to leave as storm expected to drop up to 10 feet of snow

“Avalanches may run long distances and can run into mature forests, valley floors and flat terrain,” according the NWS.

Yosemite National Park, which is under the blizzard warning, will remain closed through Sunday.

KUNR reporter Sophia Holm reported snowplows were running up and down streets regularly in Reno, Nev.

In between shoveling, we asked folks from hot spots about their first time seeing snow

Chris Slowinski and his wife Cathy Ludwig told Holm that they’re experiencing their second winter in Tahoe, and have stocked up on food and equipment.

“We’ve got a generator, so we’re set,” Slowinski said. “I mean, it’s kind of nice having nowhere to go, and we really can’t go anywhere.”

Reporting from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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