Traveling to Tahoe for New Years? That May Be ‘Impossible’ with Heavy Winter Storm

Thinking about making a winter expedition to Lake Tahoe to ring in the New Year? You may want to think again. With a category 4 atmospheric river expected to arrive in Northern California on Friday, mountain travel will be difficult to impossible, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the Tahoe region from Thursday evening to late Saturday, with the potential for heavy snowfall in the mountains above 7,000 feet and 1 to 5 inches of snow at elevations below 6,500 feet.

Strong winds are also expected, with gusts of up to 45 mph in the basin and up to 100 mph on mountain ridges. These conditions will make for rough waters on Lake Tahoe, so boaters should stay off the lake this holiday weekend.

In addition to the snow, the Sierra region is also expected to see significant rainfall due to an atmospheric river bringing moisture from tropical regions. Flood watches are in effect for much of Northern California, including the entire Tahoe Basin and Sierra.

“High snow levels and prolonged heavy rainfall will allow for significant rises on both mainstream and smaller rivers/streams,” the National Weather Service said in a statement. “This may result in minor to moderate flooding on some area rivers and streams. Rock falls will be possible, especially in steep terrain and where soils are already saturated.”

These conditions will lead to difficult and potentially dangerous driving, with traffic already backed up on I-80 heading towards Truckee as of Thursday morning.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” wrote the National Weather Service. “The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute. Very strong winds could cause extensive tree damage.”

If travel is necessary, the National Weather Service advises bringing chains, water, food, and warm clothing, and suggests checking current road conditions and chain requirements with Caltrans.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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