Weather update: Blizzard warning issued, thundersnow possible
Update 12:30 p.m. — The National Weather Service in Reno has upgraded the incoming multi-day snowstorm to a Blizzard Warning that is in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday night through 4 a.m. Friday.
The service has also upgraded snow totals at lake level with 2 to 4 feet now expected with 3 to 6 feet forecast for above 7,000 feet with periods of thundersnow.
The service is advising travelers to stay home once the snow starts to fly. Officials say there will be zero visibility through Friday morning and strong winds could cause tree damage and power outages.
“This is a life threatening situation,” the service said. “Do not attempt to travel. If you risk travel over the Sierra passes, you could be stuck in your car for several hours, if not a day. Cold wind chills as low as 20 below zero could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.”
The National Weather Service on Tuesday morning dialed in the incoming multi-day snowstorm and issued a pair of warnings.
The service upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning that is in effect from 7 p.m. Tuesday through 4 a.m. Friday and the Sierra Avalanche Center says large and destructive avalanches could occur with the expected snowfall throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The NWS forecast has held over the last couple of days and still expects 1 to 3 feet of new snow at lake level and 3 to 6 feet above 7,000 feet.
There will also be wind gusts up to 45 mph and 90 mph over exposed ridges which will create havoc for motorists trying to travel over mountain roads. Travelers should expect whiteout conditions and delays in reaching intended destinations and should have an emergency kit in their vehicles, including tire chains, extra food and water and warm clothing. Travel may even be impossible at times and officials advise changing plans or be prepared to be stuck in the car for extended periods.
“Even a walk outside can become deadly in these conditions,” said a service statement. “Aviation interests can expect periods of very little visibility and low ceilings. Turbulence will also be a factor with strong ridge level gusts exceeding 125 mph.”
Chains are still required on Tuesday morning leaving or coming to South Lake Tahoe on U.S. Highway 50 as snow continued to fall all day on Monday.
Chains are also still required at Stateline through Zephyr Cove and Glenbrook on U.S. 50 all the way to Nevada State Route 28 and from Camp Richardson on Highway 89 through Emerald Bay, Homewood and Tahoe City.
Officials expect the heaviest snowfall rates between 10 p.m. Tuesday through 10 a.m. Wednesday with another extended burst Wednesday evening through noon Thursday.
The valley floors also could see well over a foot of snow. Four to 10 inches are expected in the 4,500 range with 10 to 20 inches above 5,000 feet. There is a 20% chance for about 18 inches of snow in the Reno/Carson/Minden areas.
Conditions on Lake Tahoe will be rough with waves expected to reach up to 5 feet.
Traveling into the Tahoe backcountry will be dangerous in steep, avalanche prone areas and is not recommended.
SAC’s Avalanche Watch lasts from 7 p.m. Tuesday through 7 a.m. Friday in the central Sierra between Yuba Pass on Highway 49 to Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 through the greater Tahoe region.
The agency said heavy snow and high wind may result in widespread avalanche activity.
“Heavy snow loading on buried weak layers could cause large and destructive avalanches,” said a release.
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