RENO, Nev. (AP) — A series of storms packing heavy snow and high winds was moving Wednesday into the Sierra, where as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow is expected by the weekend on the mountaintops south of Lake Tahoe.
The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings effective from 10 p.m. Wednesday through 4 a.m. Friday for most of the Sierra and the Lake Tahoe region.
Forecasters say updated models for the storm system show significant travel impacts are anticipated off-and-on through Saturday all along the Sierra and all mountain highway passes around Lake Tahoe.
Snow is expected to fall at rates up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) per hour during peak periods through Thursday, with the best chance of up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of snow on the valley floors around Reno and Carson City late Friday night through Saturday morning, the weather service said. Much colder weather with overnight lows in the teens is forecast by the weekend.
The first wave of the storm was headed into the southern Sierra, where as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) of new snow is expected in the highest elevations of Mono and Alpine counties in California along the Nevada line. A low-pressure system was expected to push north on Thursday on course for the Tahoe basin, with winds gusting up to 60 mph (96 kph).
“This is coming in addition to the 2 feet that fell over Thanksgiving,” said Tim LeRoy, spokesman for Mammoth Mountain ski resort where he expects 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow at Mammoth’s summit about 120 miles (193 kilometers) south of Lake Tahoe.
Up to a half-foot of snow fell at the tops of Tahoe-area ski resorts Tuesday night into Wednesday.
Weather service forecasters late Wednesday added a storm watch for most of the region Friday evening through Saturday evening.
“It’s definitely a significant storm for late November,” service meteorologist Scott McGuire told the Reno Gazette-Journal Wednesday. “It’s already moving in, but the brunt of it will be (Wednesday night) into Thursday.”
Up to 6 inches (15 cm) of snow is expected at lake level at Tahoe by Thursday with up to 3 feet (90 centimeters) in the upper elevations.
Travel is likely to be difficult over mountain passes around the lake Wednesday night, with up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow possible on Interstate 80 at Donner Summit southwest of Truckee, California and on the Mt. Rose Highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe, the service said.