A blizzard has been burying parts of the West in 2 to 4 feet of snow since Tuesday afternoon.
The hardest-hit area has been the Sierra Nevada range in eastern California and western Nevada, which is under a blizzard warning until early Friday morning. Truckers will run into more whiteout conditions and potential road closures in the region Thursday.
Since the storm began, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has reported tractor-trailer accidents and many vehicle spinouts, mainly on state and U.S. highways. In northern California, sections of Interstate 5 in the Mount Shasta region, as well as portions of U.S. Highway 101, have been shut down at times.
Snowplow drivers have had trouble clearing the roads because the snow was coming down so fast. Caltrans crews Wednesday had to help truck drivers who got stuck in the snow.
An additional 3 feet of snowfall could pile up in the greater Lake Tahoe area through Thursday night, with up to an additional 4 feet around Mammoth Lakes. Wind gusts could hit 80 to 100-plus mph in the highest elevations of these areas, leading to blowing snow and wind chills of zero to 20 degrees below zero.
The southern Sierra Nevada could see up to 4 more feet of snowfall too, with wind gusts up to 40 mph. Meanwhile, the Mount Shasta region of northern California could see another 18 inches of snowfall with wind gusts up to 45 mph.
When it’s all said and done, parts of the Sierra Nevada could get record/near-record snowfall — 5 to 7 feet (60 to 84 inches) is possible by the time the storm fades Friday. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), Echo Summit set the California 24-hour snowfall record on Jan. 5, 1982, 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 from one storm.
The ongoing blizzard will also impact other major routes such as I-80, as well as U.S. Highways 50 and 395 around the greater Lake Tahoe area. Problem spots include, but are not limited to Donner Pass, Carson Pass and Echo Summit. Road closures are likely again, not just due to whiteout conditions but because of possible downed trees and power lines.
Heavy snowfall and gusty winds will also impact drivers in the northern Rockies of Idaho, southwestern Montana and western Wyoming. This includes sections of I-15 and I-90, as well as places like Sun Valley and West Yellowstone.
The storm will exit the region Friday, heading to the Four Corners region, followed by the Plains and Midwest over the weekend, then the Northeast by Monday. Look for more updates on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.