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‘Difficult to impossible mountain travel’ forecast for Tahoe

A quick-hitting cold front swept California’s Sierra Nevada and the Tahoe Basin overnight and was exiting the mountain range on Friday. A more robust system is expected to slam the mountain range Friday night through Sunday, bringing heavy snow, gusty winds and whiteout conditions.

The National Weather Service is sounding the alarm bells and advising people to “get to where you need to be for the weekend before tonight!” The weather service warned that “Sierra travel will be treacherous late tonight into Sunday.” 

In another message, the weather service stated, “Difficult to impossible mountain travel is expected tonight – Sunday due to heavy snow & gusty winds.” 

The weather service issued the same message ahead of a storm that hit last weekend, but the warning may have even more significance this weekend. Weather service meteorologist Katrina Hand pointed out that whiteout conditions with this storm are forecast to be more severe than they were with the last big storm. Powerful winds up to 60 mph are expected to whip up snow and create near-zero visibility at times. 

The overnight system delivered light to moderate snowfall, and snow showers were diminishing Friday morning. 

“We’re at a breaking point right now and in between systems,” said Hand. “We have another one coming in this afternoon.”

This larger system that forecasters are calling a weak atmospheric river is expected to arrive in the mountains of Shasta County as early as Friday night before moving south in the evening. The heaviest snowfall is expected Saturday through Sunday morning, Hand said. Snow showers could linger into Monday.

“We’re urging people to reconsider mountain travel plans, and if you do have to travel, take the necessary precautions,” she said.

The weather service is forecasting snowfall totals of 2 to 5 feet above 3,500 feet. 

Is this the biggest storm of the season so far? “It could be,” Hand said. “We really can’t make that determination until after the fact.”