Up to 8 inches of snow was expected by early Saturday on the valley floor in Reno and more than 3 feet at the higher elevations of the Sierra. Lows were forecast to dip well below zero around Tahoe early Sunday before the cold front was expected to clear off to the southeast.
Two feet of snow was reported on the west side of Lake Tahoe south of Tahoe City, Calif., and 30 inches at Squaw Valley USA ski resort where a wind gust of 152 mph was recorded before noon Friday at its summit weather station, elevation 8,700 feet.
High winds broke two dozen power poles south of Carson City just before noon Friday, dropping electrical lines across U.S. Highway 395 in the town of Minden and forcing traffic to be rerouted several miles for more than six hours. Some power lines further south fell on at least one car, but no one was hurt.
“We could see the lights were flickering then we got a call a vehicle was trapped beneath the power lines,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Capt. David Aymami told KRNV-TV. “Now that the winds have died down a little bit, we hope no more power lines will go down.”
Nevada Highway Patrol responded to about 60 incidents in the area between 6:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., many of them spinouts with minor damage.
Nonessential state workers in Carson City, Douglas, Storey, Lyon and Washoe counties were sent home at midday because of the hazardous conditions. A winter storm warning remained in effect until 4 a.m. Saturday at Tahoe.
Schools were closed at the lake on Friday and in Douglas County south of Carson City where a foot of snow had fallen by midday. More than 1.5 feet fell in a 24-hour period at Alpine Meadows ski resort near Tahoe where a season total of 8 feet of snow is now reported at the base lodge, elevation 6,835 feet.
In Reno, some schools started late and others dismissed early as the slushy snow on city streets turned to ice with temperatures hovering below freezing. A high of 24 degrees forecast for Reno on Saturday is 30 degrees below the norm for the date. The National Weather Service said lows Sunday should be in single digits in Reno, Carson City, Fallon and Lovelock — down to minus 10 at Truckee and minus 9 at South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
The weather service issued a bulletin early Friday when the Forest Service raised the avalanche threat to “high” throughout the central Sierra. It urged people to stay away from the backcountry where unstable snow made “large destructive avalanches likely” through Saturday morning.
The Nevada and California highway patrols recommended any travel be postponed until Saturday on area highways, including I-80 and U.S. Highway 50 over the Sierra.
Parts of both highways were closed off and on Friday. The Mount Rose Highway (Nevada 431) connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe also was closed.
Just before nightfall, the California Highway Patrol reopened to some motorists one stretch of I-80 that had been closed by whiteout conditions and a snow slide near Donner Pass west of Truckee. But the interstate remained closed to trucks. No one was hurt or vehicles trapped in the miniature avalanche, the patrol said.
Otherwise, chains or snow tires were required on most mountain roads, including on I-80 at the California-Nevada line at midday and for a 30-mile stretch of the interstate between Colfax, Calif., and the California Rainbow Exit 168.
Further east, the same restrictions were in effect on parts of I-80 between Reno and the Utah line, including a 25-mile stretch between Lovelock and Winnemucca and a 36-mile stretch between Winnemucca and Battle Mountain.
The weather service said another 12 to 20 inches of snow was possible by Saturday at lake level, buffeted by winds gusting up to 35 mph and some gusts up to 90 mph over the tops of the Sierra ridge.