A stretch of Interstate 80 between Colfax and the Nevada state line reopened late Tuesday, but authorities continued to strongly discourage mountain travel unless absolutely necessary as extreme winter weather continued to ravage the Sierra Nevada range.

The long span of I-80 reopened first to essential commercial vehicles around 9 p.m., then to all motorists shortly after 10:30 p.m., Caltrans said. Chains or snow tires were required.

Nevada Gov. Stephen Sisolak late Tuesday evening announced he planned to declare a state of emergency in Northern Nevada due to the storm, shuttering Highway 50 for non-essential interstate travel.

“The Emergency will allow officials to order cars to head back into the valley until conditions subside and the roadways are safe,” Sisolak tweeted.

Caltrans said this means non-Nevada residents attempting to cross from California into Nevada on Highway 50, near South Lake Tahoe, will be turned around.

A severe winter storm struck Northern California over Christmas weekend into Monday, and snowfall resumed late Tuesday, falling at low elevations in the foothills and northern Sacramento Valley.

Between 5 and 10 feet of snow have dumped on parts of the central Sierra, with a UC Berkeley lab reporting that it is already the snowiest December ever recorded in the Tahoe region. Several more inches were expected to fall through Wednesday afternoon.

Highway 50 and I-80 were both closed for extended periods as crews worked to plow mounds of snow off roadways and clear downed trees and power lines.


Resources run low in South Lake Tahoe

Highway 50 reopened to passenger vehicles early Tuesday morning, only for a jackknifed semi-truck to halt traffic in both directions near Meyers for about five hours, Caltrans said.

Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and South Lake Tahoe city officials told drivers Tuesday to avoid mountain travel, saying Highway 50 was “at capacity” due to backups and traffic from the I-80 closure.

The city of South Lake Tahoe on Tuesday afternoon activated its emergency operations center and issued a travel advisory warning against non-essential travel, noting that critical resources were running low.

“Due to the restricted roadways, a number of resources are at or near capacity, including gas, tow trucks, and lodging accommodations,” city officials wrote in a statement.

“With the highways also at capacity, there are significant delays in travel time. Anyone on the road risks getting stranded either from the road conditions or running out of fuel or electric charge, requiring emergency or other assistance.”


State of emergency in Nevada County

More than 50,000 homes and businesses across the Sierra mountains and foothills remained without power as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, according to Pacific Gas and Electric Co., including more than 24,000 customers in Nevada County, over 20,000 in El Dorado County and about 9,000 in Placer County.

Nevada County officials on Tuesday evening said the Board of Supervisors had moved to declare a local emergency due to widespread power outages and trees blocking roadways, in order to unlock state and federal aid. The Board will vote on the emergency at a special meeting at 2 p.m. today.


Snow in Auburn, rain lower in the valley

Snow once again began to fall at very low elevations early Wednesday morning, with more powder seen in downtown Placerville.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office also shared a photo and video of “snow sticking” at the Auburn Justice Center.

The National Weather Service said snow was falling as low as 1,200 feet in the Sierra foothills and accumulating at 1,500 feet. Most of the Sacramento Valley was getting moderate rainfall Wednesday morning, which was forecast to clear out by night or evening.

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