California towns buried under more than 10 feet of snow

California towns buried under more than 10 feet of snow

California’s mountain towns and ski resorts are digging out after a blockbuster blizzard buried them and major roads under several feet of snow.

The storm slammed California’s mountains for multiple days before wrapping up Monday. The most extreme conditions targeted the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada, where over 10 feet of snow and hurricane-force wind gusts of 170 mph-plus were reported.

Additional snow will fall across high elevations of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest into Wednesday, as a new storm pushes into the region but amounts are expected to be well short of the weekend’s monster storm.

Still, even small amounts of additional snow could increase travel woes across the region.

A stretch of Interstate 80 in California near the Nevada state line more than 70 miles long was closed for more than two days after highway officials reported stranded drivers Friday night. The road was reopened to passenger vehicles Monday morning and semitrailers Monday afternoon, with chains required on a 40-mile stretch from Baxter to Truckee, according to California’s transportation agency.

In the South Lake Tahoe area, where 3 to 5 feet of snow fell, a snowslide trapped vehicles and briefly shut down Highway 50 in California Sunday morning. There were no injuries reported and crews quickly reopened the road, officials said.

Incredibly heavy snow and roaring winds presented long-lasting problems for other areas that typically thrive on plenty of snowfall.

Numerous ski slopes and chairlifts were closed Sunday because of the extreme conditions, including at Palisades Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Mammoth. Many will remain closed on Monday as crews dig out.

Alpine Peak at Palisades Tahoe registered a wind gust Saturday of 171 mph, with gusts nearby topping 140 mph on Sunday, forcing it to close.

Other nearby high elevations were buried under even more snow. The Sugar Bowl Ski Resort located near Donner Peak recorded 126 inches (10.5 feet) of snow from Friday to Monday. Of that total, 39 inches fell in 24 hours from early Sunday to Monday morning. Soda Springs reported 116 inches, Kingvale had 106 inches and Dodge Ridge saw 89 inches over the same period.

The ski resort Sierra-at-Tahoe in Twin Bridges shared images with CNN of snow piling up against the door of the resort’s maintenance shop and a car in the resort’s guest parking buried in snow that fell overnight. At least 5 feet of snow pummeled the resort, but strong winds carried snow into even taller piles creating snow drifts.

The daunting forecast wasn’t enough to dissuade some travelers from hitting the road during the worst conditions.

The snowy and windy conditions left some vehicles stuck on the main road to Mammoth Mountain ski resort, US 395, on Friday, with some motorists in need of rescue, according to the highway patrol office in Truckee, which reported a “mass amount of vehicles stuck over Donner Summit.” The road was forced to close.

The snowfall was so intense with such punishing winds that even crews dispatched to help those trapped found themselves in a similar predicament.

“At one point, emergency personnel and tow trucks had a difficult time getting to motorists due to blizzard conditions,” the highway patrol said.

The California Highway Patrol posted a photo Saturday afternoon of one of its cars stuck in snow.

The severe winter storm conditions in Northern California even damaged and knocked out several pieces of equipment crews were using to clear roadways of snow, California Department of Transportation officials said in a post on X.

As communities dig out from the blockbuster storm, one positive development is the state’s snowpack, a critical source of water for California in the warmer months.

Statewide snow water equivalent — a measure of how much water is contained within snow — has risen above average for the first time this winter, overcoming a significant deficit from earlier in the season, according to data from the California Department of Water Resources.

California’s snow water equivalent is at 104% of its average for March 4 and 94% of its April 1 average, when snowpack is typically at its peak. On February 28, before the storm arrived, the snow water equivalent was 81% of average for the date. In early January, the measure was only at 28%.