Sierra pounded by hurricane-force wind gusts; Blinding blizzard conditions

TRUCKEE – A ferocious storm front lingered in the Sierra on Sunday morning following a 24-hour blizzard that left more than 3 feet of new snow piled on the ground and a 165 mph gust of wind at the station of skiing from Palisades Tahoe.

While decreasing in intensity, snow will continue to fall around Lake Tahoe throughout Sunday.

“The snow forecast for the Sierra is straightforward with snow expected to continue throughout the day with periods of heavier localized snow bands resulting in limited visibility and increased snow totals,” forecasters said. Reno office of the National Weather Service. “While the snow will begin to thin by this afternoon, snow showers will continue over much of the Sierra through Monday morning.”

Winter storm and avalanche warnings remain in effect Sunday.

“Additional snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches, expect 10 to 20 inches above 7,000 feet,” forecasters warned. “Winds blowing up to 100 km/h along the ridge lines.”

For much of Saturday, the snow had a high level of humidity. Known as “Sierra cement”, the deep, heavy snow triggered the avalanche warning.

“Several feet of new snow and strong winds will bring dangerous avalanche conditions to the mountains,” forecasters said. “Avalanche activity could be widespread and some avalanches could be large and destructive.”

As of Sunday morning, 48 inches had fallen in Sierra-at-Tahoe, 46 inches in Tahoe Donner, more than 40 inches in Palisades Tahoe, 33 inches in Kirkwood and 32 inches in Heavenly over the past 24 hours.

Palisades Tahoe officials said the station will remain closed on Sunday.

“Due to low visibility and high avalanche hazard, all lifts in Palisades are closed for today,” officials said on Twitter.

Meanwhile in the Bay Area, clouds gave way to blue skies Sunday morning. Wet and flooded roadways created dangerous driving conditions early in the morning, leading to numerous accidents.

CHP officer Andrew Barclay said it takes very little on a wet road to lose control of a vehicle.

“Very often it takes very little for something to go wrong before a vehicle starts to spin,” Barclay said. “We have people who will tell us in these crashes ‘well, I didn’t accelerate’. But just because you’re not going over the speed limit doesn’t mean you’re driving at a safe speed. When we have water on the road, we have to slow down. This standing water creates this layer on the road and it takes very little time to start aquaplaning.”

As the storm unfolded in all its ferocity on Saturday, gusty winds toppled trees into homes in Monte Rio and heavy rains triggered flash flood watches across the Bay Area. Watches were issued for Sonoma, Monterey, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties.

Meanwhile, winds of up to 50 mph toppled trees and branches at several homes in rural Sonoma County.

On Alder Dr. in Monte Rio, a tree slammed into a two-story house. On River Blvd., a large redwood branch fell, damaging three vehicles and an Airbnb rental.

“It was like an earthquake,” said Cynthia Cook, one of the Airbnb tenants who was in town from Pacifica to celebrate a friend’s birthday. “A redwood branch fell and hit our three cars which are not operational at this time.”

Later, a tree fell in a house on Old Monte Rio Rd. in Guerneville. The tree knocked down power lines, as well as the top half of a utility pole, blocking Route 116 for about 30 minutes.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, where more than 3 inches fell in Ben Lomond, CHP dealt with two large “basketball-sized” boulders blocking the right lane on Highway 17 southbound before the summit for several hours.

In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, a massive redwood tree fell in Hellman Hollow, forcing organizers to alter the course of the race during the national cross-county championships.

“The tree was a Monterey Cyprus, about 30 feet tall,” a spokesperson for San Francisco Recreation & Parks told KPIX. “It happened around 10:30 a.m. No injuries and we moved the race to the upper track at Polo Fields.”

Higher peaks in the Bay Area could also receive a blanket of snow early on Sunday.

“Snow levels are already dropping early this morning to around 3,700 feet in the North Bay and around 4,300
feet at Point Sur,” the meteorologists said. “The moisture arriving today is expected to coincide with these drawdown levels to produce snowfall at the highest peaks in the region.”

“So for the Santa Lucias the most likely amounts are around 2-4 inches with 6-8 inches possible in the tallest
elevations. However, a reasonable worst-case scenario could produce more than 8 inches locally if things line up perfectly humidity and temperature.”

Comments are closed.