A formidable winter storm is set to hit the Northern California mountains this weekend, with forecasters warning of heavy snow and strong winds from Friday night through Sunday. In response, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a stark warning about travel in the mountains over the weekend.
“Heavy mountain snow will create major travel impacts over the Sierra and southern Cascades tomorrow above 6000 feet,” wrote the NWS on Twitter. “Travel is HIGHLY discouraged.”
The region is bracing for a substantial snowfall, with estimates of 1 to 2 feet of snow at elevations above 6,000 feet, impacting Mammoth, Tahoe, Lassen, and the Mount Shasta regions. Snow levels are expected to start around 3,000 feet on Friday and rise to 6,000 feet by Saturday.
A series of winter storm warnings cover a large portion of the affected areas. For the greater Tahoe Basin, the warning is in effect from 4 am Saturday to 4 am. Sunday, with varying snow depths depending on elevation. The forecast predicts 1 to 5 inches at lake level in Tahoe, 6 to 14 inches between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, and a hefty 14 to 24 inches above 8,000 feet.
The peak of the storm is expected between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, particularly impacting areas such as I-80, Donner Pass, Echo Summit, and Highway 50. During this period, snowfall rates could reach 1 to 3 inches per hour.
In Mt. Shasta City, snow accumulations are expected to reach 11 inches, with even more hitting the Mt. Shasta Ski Park.
Winds are also expected to bring major difficulties in the mountain, getting as high as 40 mph on mountain roads, creating whiteout conditions. At higher elevations like the peaks of ski resorts, these winds could cause delays and closures.
Residents and travelers are advised to stay informed about the changing weather conditions and to prepare emergency kits if travel is unavoidable. Stay safe, NorCal!