South Lake Tahoe Blizzard: Unprecedented Snowfall and Tornado Chaos

In South Lake Tahoe, California, a relentless blizzard has unleashed feet of snow, 190-mph wind gusts, and even a rare tornado, battering the state for several days. Fueled by a sprawling area of low pressure engulfing much of the West Coast, the storm is blanketing the Sierra Nevada with relentless snowfall, projected to reach 5-10 feet in higher elevations and 2-5 feet in areas as low as 6,000 feet where many residents reside.

The severe conditions prompted the closure of numerous highways and mountain passes, including the vital Interstate 80 connecting San Francisco to Lake Tahoe and Reno. California Highway Patrol officials reported a 50-mile section of the roadway closed from Drum Forebay to the California-Nevada state line, later extending 15 miles west to Colfax due to blizzard conditions and numerous spin-outs.

Emergency crews faced challenges rescuing stranded motorists amid the blizzard, with some vehicles abandoned on Donner Summit. Blizzard warnings persist for the Sierra Nevada, including the Lake Tahoe area, with extreme snowfall rates and hurricane-force winds creating hazardous whiteout conditions.

At Lake Tahoe’s Palisades Ski Resort, wind gusts exceeding 150 mph were recorded, including a staggering 190 mph gust. Forecasters now caution about potential thunderstorms that could bring intense snowfall rates of 4-6 inches per hour, warning residents to prepare for extended power outages and road closures.

Yosemite National Park preemptively closed before the storm’s arrival, and Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for Northern California and western Nevada, with Reno expecting up to a foot of snow.

The severe weather wasn’t confined to the Sierra Nevada. A tornado touched down in the San Joaquin Valley, prompting rare warnings. Residents captured images and videos of the tornado’s path through residential and agricultural areas, though no injuries were reported.

In San Francisco, strong winds caused injuries when a tree branch fell on a car. In Nevada, hurricane-force wind gusts led to power outages affecting over 25,000 customers, including parts of the Las Vegas Strip.

Though the storm is expected to taper off later Sunday, snowfall may continue into next week as low pressure persists. Residents are urged to remain prepared as the region braces for potentially more storm activity in the coming weeks.

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