Avalanche Blocks I-80 to Tahoe for Foreseeable Future

by Jennifer Shea
avalanche-blocks-i-80-tahoe-foreseeable-future

A snowstorm bringing whiteout blizzard conditions has set off an avalanche in the Lake Tahoe area that left Highway 89 and I-80 closed in both directions.

Authorities shut down a 70-mile span of I-80, from Colfax through Lake Tahoe and up to the Nevada state line, CBS SF reports. Meanwhile, the Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee put out a Backcountry Avalanche Warning for the Greater Lake Tahoe Area that lasts through Tuesday.

“Heavy snowfall and extremely strong winds have created unstable avalanche conditions in the mountains,” the avalanche center cautioned. “Large natural avalanches and human-triggered avalanches are expected.”

Palisades Tahoe Mountain Operations alerted locals to the avalanche that has already hit on Monday morning. It struck Highway 89 from Tahoe City to River Ranch. The ski resort then shut down for the day.

Around Tahoe, Conditions Remain Treacherous

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office sent out a tweet on Monday asking everyone “to please stay home.” The sheriff stressed that I-80 was closed in both directions due to downed trees.

Downed trees and power lines littered local roads. And in some places, there was less than one lane’s width clear on Monday.

The snowstorm made driving conditions dangerous even where roads were clear. Southbound Highway 395 at Washoe Valley saw a 20-car pileup Sunday morning. At least three people suffered injuries. And that highway, too, was subsequently closed to traffic.

Multiple other highways, including Highway 50 and State Routes 20 and 49, shut down temporarily amid the snowstorm. By Monday night, Highway 50 had partially reopened, as had State Route 267, per SFGate.

In the Tahoe area, the snowfall broke a record set in December 1970. The University of California-Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory tweeted that with the snow still coming down, they could see epic levels of snowfall this month.

According to SFGate, Caltrans is now mandating tire chains for all vehicles that are without four-wheel drive and snow tires. Authorities have yet to announce a reopening time for Highway 89 and I-80.

Search for Missing Skier Slows Amid Blizzard

The snowstorm has complicated the search for missing skier Rory Angelotta, 43, of Truckee. Angelotta went missing sometime Saturday around the Northstar ski resort in the Lake Tahoe area.

Angelotta’s ski pass was reportedly scanned at the Comstock lift around 11:30 a.m. that morning. But he never showed up for a dinner with friends on Saturday night.

Angelotta was a veteran skier and supposedly had avalanche equipment with him when he set out to go skiing. On Sunday, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office sent out teams from the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue, Nevada County Search and Rescue and Northstar Ski Patrol.

“Searchers responded and combed the mountain and surrounding areas, despite extreme weather,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “Rescue personnel were on skis, snowmobiles, and a snowcat during their search. They faced high avalanche danger, strong winds, whiteout flurries, frigid temperatures, and heavy snow loads before calling off their search in the evening.”

Unfortunately, by Monday, Northstar had shut down due to blizzard conditions bringing over 6 feet of snow in 48 hours. And while search efforts continued Monday, the snowstorm presented a significant obstacle to the hunt for Angelotta.

Outsider.com