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Blizzard hits California, Nevada, disrupting Travel, power supply

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A formidable blizzard swept through California and Nevada overnight, paralyzing the Sierra Nevada region and causing extensive disruptions. The storm, considered the most significant of the season, led to the closure of a substantial portion of Interstate-80 in California, while gusty winds and heavy rain battered lower elevations, resulting in power outages affecting tens of thousands of customers.

Forecasts indicate that certain areas could receive up to 10 feet of snow. Late on Friday, the National Weather Service in Reno issued warnings of the storm’s intensification, projecting blizzard conditions and reduced visibility to one-quarter mile or less, persisting through Saturday. The service also cautioned of “high to extreme avalanche danger” in the central Sierra backcountry, encompassing the greater Lake Tahoe vicinity, until Sunday evening.

Authorities in California responded to the hazardous conditions by shutting down a 100-mile stretch of I-80 due to a combination of spin-outs, high winds, and poor visibility. The closure, spanning from the California-Nevada border west of Reno to near Emigrant Gap, California, lacked a definitive timeline for reopening.

As the storm wreaked havoc, power utility company Pacific Gas & Electric reported approximately 24,000 households and businesses without electricity by 10 p.m. Friday. Winter weather alerts envelop more than 25 million people in the affected regions, amplifying the urgency of response efforts.

In a rare occurrence, a tornado touched down in Madera County on Friday afternoon, inflicting damage upon an elementary school, according to Andy Bollenbacher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Hanford. Meanwhile, several ski resorts ceased operations on Friday, with tentative plans to resume activities on Sunday, contingent upon weather conditions. Palisades Tahoe, a prominent resort, expressed hope for partial reopening on Saturday but announced the closure of all chairlifts at neighboring Alpine Meadows due to forecasts of heavy snowfall and winds exceeding 100 mph.

The onset of the storm on Thursday triggered a blizzard warning spanning a 300-mile expanse of the mountains, prompting preparations and cautionary measures. Despite the anticipation, not all enthusiasts ventured into the mountains ahead of the storm. Daniel Lavely, an avid skier, opted against skiing due to hazardous weather conditions, reflecting a sentiment echoed by some of his customers who underestimated the storm’s severity.

Meteorologists project the accumulation of up to 10 feet of snow in the Lake Tahoe mountain range by the weekend, with significant snowfall also anticipated in surrounding communities and valleys. Yosemite National Park announced closure on Friday, with plans to remain shut until at least noon on Sunday, underscoring the widespread impact of the ongoing blizzard.

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