SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - A wall of snow coming down from a hillside a quarter mile from Eagle Falls buried a SUV traveling south bound on Highway 89. Officers rescued the trapped driver, the sole occupant of the vehicle by cutting her seat belt and helping her from the snow-covered vehicle.
The snow was 14 feet deep on the road and could have buried several vehicles, said California Highway Patrol officer Timothy Malone. The avalanche was caused by the large amount of snow on the mountains and the warming temperatures, he said. Highway 89 will be closed until it can be cleared and Caltrans can do an analysis of the avalanche danger.
"Obviously with the heavy snow load in the last two months and the weather recently, we have some big concerns about the stability of the snow," Malone said.
The avalanche could trigger other slides in the area, Malone said. All traffic and all pedestrians were being turned around at the gate after the switchbacks leading to Emerald Bay. All public safety personnel responding to the scene were required to wear avalanche beacons.
"It is very important that we do for safety matters," Malone said. "You never know when snow will let loose."
The driver was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital for assessment of injuries. The car, most of the windows broken and the hood smashed in, was removed from the slide and towed.
Highway 89 will be closed at least for the next two days, Malone said. The road was opened just several days ago after Caltrans was able to clear all the snow that had fallen in the last storm.
The Sierra Avalanche Center lists the avalanche danger as "considerable."