Blizzard cranking across the Sierra Nevada

Plow truck trying to clear a snowy California highway. during a blizzard

A major snowstorm began cranking Tuesday afternoon across California, leading to road closures and potential accidents.

The most dangerous conditions for drivers will continue to occur in the Sierra Nevada, from far eastern California to far western Nevada, as well as the Mount Shasta region of northern California.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), record/near-record snowfall of 60 to 84 inches (5 to 7 feet) will bury the Sierra Nevada through early Friday morning. On Jan. 5, 1982, Echo Summit set the California 24-hour snowfall record with 67 inches. On Feb. 4, 2019, June Mountain recorded an unofficial 72 inches in 24 hours. From Dec. 18-20, 2010, Mammoth Mountain recorded 91.5 inches of snow.

“We will be keeping an eye on this storm to see what happens,” meteorologists at the NWS office in Reno, Nevada, told FreightWaves on Twitter.

The blizzard is already impacting travel on Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 101, with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) reporting closures; I-5 may still be closed north of Redding. Caltrans has also reported many spinouts and some tractor-trailer accidents due to the storm. Issues are also likely on U.S. Highways 50 and 395 around the greater Lake Tahoe area.

Because the blizzard won’t be a quick-hitter, this makes it all the more dangerous. Whiteout conditions will be persistent as wind gusts reach 60 to 100-plus mph. The powerful winds will also increase the odds of downed trees and utility lines, as well as power outages.

Portions of the Sacramento Valley could also get socked with heavy snowfall, with 12 inches or more piling up in some places such as Redding, Red Bluff and Paradise.

The blizzard should fade Friday, but additional snowfall may arrive this weekend.

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