Major storm dumps snow and closes mountain roads in California

COLFAX (Calif.) -- Major Christmas storm caused major whiteout conditions and closed key roads amid blowing snow in Nevada and Northern California. Forecasters warned that travel in the Sierra Nevada could prove difficult for several days.

Major storm dumps snow and closes mountain roads in California

Three people were reported to have been injured by a 20-car pileup near Reno on U.S. Route 395. Drivers described poor visibility on Sunday. A 70-mile (112 km) stretch of Interstate 80 from Colfax, California to the Nevada border was closed west until Monday.

California Department of Transportation also shut down many roads and warned motorists about slippery conditions.

On Sunday, the National Weather Service office at Reno, Nevada stated on Twitter that "expect major travel delays all roads". "Today is the day to stay home if possible. There is more snow on the way!

The weather service issued a snow storm warning for Lake Tahoe up to 1 a.m. on Tuesday due to possible "widespread" whiteout conditions and wind gusts of up 45 mph (72 km/h).

From San Diego to Seattle, turbulent weather was common. Near Port Angeles, Washington state's Puget Sound, more than a foot (0.3 metres) of snow was reported. According to the weather service, Portland, Oregon, received a dusting. However, the city was forecast to receive another 2.5 inches (6 cm) of snow by Monday morning.

California was closed by rockslides due to heavy rain in California. The closures were made along the coast Highway 1 in Big Sur, south of San Francisco Bay Area. The estimated reopening time of this scenic stretch, which is often closed due to wet weather, was not known.

Southern California was hit by the latest storm, which brought heavy rains and winds that caused flooding and knocked out power lines on Saturday. According to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, powerful gusts blew down trees and damaged carports. There were no injuries.

According to the weather service, Santa Barbara County's San Marcos pass received more than 1.8 inches (4.5 cms) of rain in 24 hours. Rocky Butte in San Luis Obispo County saw 1.61 inches (4 cms) of rainfall.

Los Angeles International Airport stated that a storm-related electrical problem forced Terminal 5 to be closed. This caused post-Christmas passengers who were using Terminal 5 to travel to other terminals to access certain services.

LAX tweeted, "Cancellations or delays are possible. It is important to verify your flight status today if you fly through Terminal 5."

Crews were working in the San Bernardino Mountains east to repair a section on State Route 18 that had been washed away by heavy rains late Thursday. Officials said that the closure of the main route to Big Bear could be for several weeks.

In California's dry state, the continued storms were welcome. The Sierra snowpack was at dangerously low levels following weeks of dry weather. The state Department of Water Resources reported that the snowpack was at 114% to 137% of normal across the range, with more snow anticipated.

At the Sierra's highest elevations, snowfalls were as high as 8 feet (2.24 meters).

On the west shore of Lake Tahoe, Homewood had already received 20 inches (50 cm) of snow before Sunday. Northstar, near Truckee in California, reported a foot (30 cm) and Mount Rose, on the southwest side of Reno, 10 inches (25 cm) respectively.

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