Interstate Highway 80 has been closed in both directions from Colfax to the Nevada State line since Friday morning due to a severe snowstorm that caused whiteout conditions in the Sierra region. The storm is predicted to last for three days, bringing wind chills well below zero and adding at least three feet to the already significant snowpack.
The Truckee office of the CHP confirmed the road closure with no estimated reopening time, leaving many drivers trying to reach Tahoe stranded. Travel in the mountains is highly discouraged, and Caltrans and the Truckee CHP have reported turning back traffic due to poor visibility and spinouts.
?? ROAD CLOSURE UPDATE ??— CHP Truckee (@CHP_Truckee) February 24, 2023
I-80 eastbound and westbound is still CLOSED from Colfax to the Nevada State line. No estimated time of re-opening.
The storm will continue all day today through tomorrow and travel in the mountains is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED. pic.twitter.com/CxRlvC1UdC
Chain controls are in effect across the region, and for updates on road conditions, travelers should visit roads.dot.ca.gov/roadscell.php and quickmap.dot.ca.gov.
Highway 50 eastbound at Sand Flat and westbound at Meyer are also reporting closures due to spinouts, slides onto the highway, and avalanche control. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm advisory for the region until Saturday, warning of total snow accumulations of 4 to 12 inches, except 12 to 24 inches above 7000 feet, and winds gusting up to 90 mph along Sierra ridgelines with gusts up to 35 mph in the Tahoe Basin.
The Sierra Avalanche Center has also issued a Backcountry Avalanche Warning for the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains, including the greater Lake Tahoe area, with high avalanche danger through Saturday morning. The weather service predicts a second wintry blast will hit the region on Friday through Saturday, with total snow accumulations of 8 to 15 inches at lake level and 1 to 2 feet at the Sierra crest, and gusts up to 60 mph along Sierra ridgelines. These conditions could result in widespread avalanche activity in the mountains, with large avalanches occurring in a variety of areas.
The Sierra Avalanche Center has issued a Backcountry Avalanche Warning for the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains from Ebbetts Pass (CA-4) north to Yuba Pass (CA-49), including the greater Lake Tahoe area. HIGH avalanche danger through Sat AM. More info: https://t.co/QlP5SPZruB pic.twitter.com/BYXcMfOGQK— NWS Reno (@NWSReno) February 24, 2023
The UC Sierra Snow Lab near Donner Summit on I-80 had already received a foot of new snow by 1 p.m. on Thursday, and researchers expect another 3-4 feet of snow by Saturday morning due to the cold temperatures, resulting in light and fluffy snow with a snow-to-liquid ratio of 16.5:1.
It's deep out there! We've received 26.2" (66.5 cm) of #snow over the last 24 hours, which brings our 3-day total to 45.1" (114.5 cm)!— UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab (@UCB_CSSL) February 24, 2023
We're expecting another 7-14" today before a break in the snow tomorrow and then plenty more starting Sunday!#CAwx #CAwater #Weather pic.twitter.com/DqIX85lTtY
Although it may be tempting, it’s best to avoid any travel in Northern California right now, especially in the Sierra.