“At approximately 10.15am on March 3 2018, Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol was performing avalanche hazard mitigation work when an avalanche released on the upper part of the mountain travelling towards the High Five Express chair,” said Mammoth Mountain Ski Area spokesperson Lauren Burke. -- Capradio.org, March 3, 2018.
Snowboarders at Northstar California make their way through heavy snowfall as a major storm moved across the Sierra Nevada. (Colin Lygren / Northstar California)
A frigid storm moving in from the Gulf of Alaska will dump several feet of snow on Northern California mountains over the next few days, bringing whiteout conditions and dangerous wind chills.
The storm will span most of the Golden State and has triggered blizzard and avalanche warnings in the Sierra Nevada and flash flood watches and the threat of floods and mudslides across the burn areas of Southern California.
"It's the biggest storm of the season," said Jim Mathews, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. "Of course, February was a dud of a month, so March is coming in like a roaring lion."
Forecasters are predicting up to 7 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada, with up to 10 feet possible in the highest elevations in the mountain range "where no man lives," Mathews said.
"We're measuring snow by the yardstick instead of by the foot rulers this time," he said.
It's too early to say whether the storm portends a March miracle capable of pulling California's snowpack out of the doldrums, said Michael Anderson, the state climatologist with the Department of Water Resources.
The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada had a snow-water equivalent of 24% of average on Thursday, state officials said. Sierra snowpack traditionally makes up one third of the state's water supply.
But thanks to the historically wet winter of 2016, the picture isn't as dire as it could be after the last several months of dry conditions, Anderson said.
"In terms of having a base flow coming out of the Sierra into the larger reservoirs, it still seems to be holding up despite the dry winter," he said.
When the current storm passes, the snowpack could see an increase of 25%, he said.
By mid-morning Thursday, the Boreal Mountain Ski Resort near Donner Lake had received a foot of snow. The Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Resort near Lake Tahoe had received 7 inches, and Bear Valley between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite had received 4 inches.
The fresh powder was a welcome sight for Kristyn Lucero in Tahoe City, who was cleaning snow off her car by 4:15 a.m. on Thursday.
By typical standards, the snow hitting Tahoe City and much of the Sierra Nevada is par for the course this time of the year. But meteorologists have noted that California's rain and snowfall have been alarmingly missing for much of the last five months — the bulk of the state's rain season.
"It's finally back again; I know a lot of people are excited about it," said Lucero, who works behind the counter at Tahoe House Bakery & Gourmet. "Cinnamon rolls were popular today, and a lot of warm drinks are going out the door."
Much of the Sierra Nevada range is under a blizzard warning from Thursday morning through Friday morning, with heavy winds, blinding snow and dangerously cold temperatures.
"Even a short walk could be deadly in these conditions," the National Weather Service in Reno said in a tweet.
Forecasters also have warned of power outages throughout Northern California because of the gusty winds.
Drivers on numerous roadways through the Plumas, Tahoe and Eldorado national forests were required to have tire chains or snow tires Thursday morning.
A 52-mile stretch of Interstate 80 from Colfax to Truckee was closed Thursday afternoon, according to the Placer County sheriff.
The Sierra Avalanche Center has issued an avalanche warning for much of the central Sierra Nevada through 7 a.m. Friday, putting the danger level at 4 on a 1-5 scale.
The storm will bring Northern California snow levels lower than they have been since about 2011, said Mathews of weather service. Snow will fall between 1,500 to 3,000 feet, with some areas at 2,000 feet possibly getting a foot of snow.
The storm, which is centered off the Oregon coast, will reach as far south as San Diego County, which could receive light showers over the next few days, said Anderson, the state climatologist.
According to long-term forecasts, California is expected to remain drier than average into the spring. There is the potential for another storm next week, but it is still too early to say if it will materialize, Anderson said.
2 Hurt As Avalanche Hits Squaw Valley Ski Resort
Update 8:12 p.m. (AP) - Officials at a California ski resort say an avalanche that caught five people has injured 2 people, one of them seriously.
Dozens of rescuers rushed to the scene Friday afternoon at Squaw Valley Ski Resort east of Sacramento.
Local television stations posted dramatic video of people digging out a man buried under snow.
The resort says a man was hospitalized with a serious lower body injury, another person was treated and released and three people weren't hurt.
The resort has been closed.
The avalanche occurred a day after a snowboarder died at the resort. The man's body was found under feet of snow Friday, the day after a blizzard packing 150-mph winds hit the Sierra Nevada.
Original Post: (AP) — A snowboarder was found dead Friday at a Lake Tahoe ski resort after a blizzard packing winds gusting to nearly 150 mph over the ridge tops dumped 3 feet (1 meter) of snow in the mountains, shutting down area highways, canceling school in Reno and closing state offices throughout northern Nevada.
With another foot (30 cm) of snow in the forecast into Saturday, an avalanche warning was posted throughout the Tahoe backcountry and in neighborhoods on the lake's north shore along the California-Nevada line.
A blizzard warning expired Friday but whiteout conditions were still possible around Lake Tahoe, where a winter storm warning remained in effect until 10 a.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
The Placer County Sheriff's Office identified the dead snowboarder as 42-year-old Wenyu Zhang of Rocklin, California. His body was located by Squaw Valley Ski Patrol members after friends reported him missing late Thursday night at about the same time a 146 mph (235 mph) wind gust was reported at the top of the resort south of Truckee, California.
The search was suspended overnight due to high avalanche danger but resumed at daybreak Friday. The effort was aided by a tracking program at the resort that reads a computer chip or reflector attached to clothing, boots or helmets.
Zhang was wearing a helmet when he was found. His death has not been determined, the sheriff said.
Interstate 80, which was closed several hours on Thursday, reopened Friday morning but chains or snow tires were required from west of the California-Nevada line across the top of the Sierra, and on all major mountain passes.
"Strong winds will cause whiteout conditions in blowing and drifting snow at times," the Weather Service in Reno said Friday. "Avoid travel if possible. You could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours."
Gov. Brian Sandoval ordered all state offices in the northern half of the state closed Friday due to the inclement weather from Reno east to the Utah line.
Four feet (120 cm) had already fallen early Friday at Mammoth Mountain south of Yosemite National Park. Three feet (90 cm) of snow was measured at the Kirkwood resort south of Lake Tahoe and at the Mount Rose ski resort on the southwest edge of Reno.
Washoe County's Emergency Management division in Reno said no evacuations were required when it issued the avalanche warning for Tahoe's north shore late Friday afternoon, but said pedestrians should avoid activity in subdivisions in the Crystal Bay area along Highway 28.
The weather service said another foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow is possible by Saturday at lake level. Up to 20 inches (50 cm) is forecast in the upper elevations.
Up to 6 inches (15 cm) of snow fell in the Reno area, which remains under a winter weather advisory until 10 a.m. Saturday. An 82 mph (132 kph) gust of wind was recorded Thursday on the west edge of Reno near Verdi.
The biggest storm of the season prompted one area ski resort to postpone a ceremony planned Saturday to celebrate the accomplishments of several Lake Tahoe-area Olympians just back from the Winter Games in South Korea.
Snowboarders Jamie Anderson, who won gold and silver medals, Maddie Bowman and Hannah Teter were among those scheduled to attend the daylong event at Sierra-at-Tahoe south of the lake.
The weather system was making its way east toward Utah Friday evening. A winter storm warning continues Saturday in northeast Nevada along U.S. Interstate 80 until 4 p.m. and further south until 7 p.m. along U.S. Highway 50 where more than a foot (30 cm) of snow is expected at Great Basin National Park on the Utah line.
In Utah, the National Weather Service posted storm warnings through late Sunday morning for the Great Salt Lake Desert, Cache Valley and Wasatch Front. Forecasters predicted snowfall amounts of up to 1 foot (30 cm) in Cache Valley, up to 20 inches (50 cm) in the Wasatch Mountains and western Uinta Mountains, and localized amounts topping 2 feet (60 cm) in some places.
The Utah Avalanche Center warned of avalanche danger Friday near Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo, Skyline and the Uintas, and moderate danger near Moab and Abajo.
An avalanche at at popular ski resort in California forced officials to close the mountain after at least three people were partially buried under snow and ice.
Officials at Mammoth Mountain, located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Inyo National Forest, took the measures after the avalanche happened at around 10.15am.
Reports said the resort was very crowded with people at the time of the incident, which resulted in three people being partly buried. Officials said they were able to free themselves.
“At approximately 10.15am on March 3 2018, Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol was performing avalanche hazard mitigation work when an avalanche released on the upper part of the mountain travelling towards the High Five Express chair,” said Mammoth Mountain Ski Area spokesperson Lauren Burke.
“The area where avalanche control work was conducted was closed for skiing at the time of the incident. Avalanche debris travelled towards the bottom of the lift and ultimately crossed into an area that was open to the public.”
She added in a statement: “Three people were partially buried including one Mammoth Mountain employee. The three individuals were able to free themselves without injury.”
It was the second avalanche at a ski resort in the state in as many days. On Friday, an avalanche on Friday injured two people and closed the Squaw Valley ski resort.
Heavy storms have drenched coastal areas and dumped more than six feet of snow in some higher elevations.
Ms Burke said ski patrol teams were dispatched to the scene immediately and avalanche dog search were brought in. “We are not aware of any missing persons. If members of the public are aware of missing friends or family, please call 760-934-0611,” she added.
She said the resort will remain closed for the rest of the day to allow staff to focus their efforts on the site. It is expected to be open on Sunday.