Storm closes major highways

Whiteout conditions, avalanche concerns stall traffic over the Sierra
By: MARTIN GRIFFITH Associated Press
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The calendar may say spring but it’s still winter in the Sierra Nevada. A potent storm that dropped more heavy snow in the Sierra caused headaches for mountain motorists over the weekend. But it also boosted the summer water outlook for Nevada and California. Two major highways linking the Sacramento and Lake Tahoe areas remain closed Sunday morning due to the storm — Interstate 80 over Donner Summit and Highway 88 over Carson Pass. In addition. a section of Highway 50 was closed part of Sunday because of avalanche danger. Boreal ski resort atop Donner Summit reported three feet of new snow over a 24-hour period ending early Sunday morning and up to six feet of new snow in recent days. The snowfall has pushed the water content of the Lake Tahoe basin’s snowpack up to 158 percent of average for the date, according to official logs. Locally, the storm doused power to 113 customers in Auburn. Placer County-wide, there were 2,330 customers without electricity, PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said Sunday. “We’re pretty well slammed right now,” he said. “Systemwide, there are 89,000 customers without power. Originally, the storm (was supposed) to hit just today (Sunday). We were expecting rain, low snow and wind. But it hit us starting Friday.” Boyles said the weather system impacted PG&E’s entire service area. “Basically, with this storm, anything that could knock out power, we’ve had it,” he said. Auburn saw .67 of an inch of rain from Saturday into Sunday. Readings taken at the municipal airport indicate 2.28 inches since Friday and 6.69 inches in the past 10 days. Despite the storm’s wallop, Auburn fIre and police departments both reported a quiet day Sunday. At 4 p.m. Sunday, westbound I-80 reopened. At 4:45 p.m., the eastbound lanes were reopened to passenger vehicles only, with big rigs still held at Applegate, according to the California Highway Patrol traffic incident website. The Journal’s Gloria Young contributed to this story.