The Latest: Heavy snow closes I-80 in Sierra

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Posted: Jan 04, 2017 9:33 PM
The Latest: Heavy snow closes I-80 in Sierra

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on the winter weather slamming much of the West (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

Heavy snow has closed U.S. Interstate 80 and all major passes over the top of the Sierra Nevada as a wet, winter storm continues to pummel much of the West.

The California Highway Patrol closed about a 50-mile stretch of I-80 over Donner Pass Wednesday night between Truckee and Colfax, north and west of Lake Tahoe.

More than 2 feet of snow has fallen in the last 24 hours at Tahoe area ski resorts, and another foot is in the forecast into Thursday.

The Nevada Highway Patrol shut down the Mount Rose Highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe on Wednesday morning in blizzard conditions. A small avalanche at a nearby ski resort briefly trapped two vehicles, but no one was hurt.

A stretch of U.S. Highway 50 west of Lake Tahoe was closed, along with state highways around the lake in both California and Nevada.

Authorities say they don't know how long the roads will remain closed.

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1:50 p.m.

Blizzard conditions have forced the closure of the main highway connecting Reno, Nevada, to Lake Tahoe, and a small avalanche at a nearby ski resort briefly trapped three vehicles as heavy snow keeps falling across much of the Sierra Nevada.

More than two feet of snow has fallen in the region's upper elevations since Tuesday afternoon.

State transportation officials say no one was hurt Wednesday after the small avalanche occurred along an access-road at the Mount Rose ski resort about 30 miles southwest of Reno.

Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said crews trying to reopen Mount Rose Highway are dealing with near white-out conditions.

State trooper Dan Gordon says there have been no major accidents in the region.

But he says road conditions are treacherous and even cars with chains are getting stuck and sliding off roads.

Another foot of snow is in the forecast into Wednesday night.

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11:13 a.m.

Wet winter weather slammed much of the West on Wednesday, with storms dropping 8 inches of snow on one Oregon city and as much as 5 feet of the white stuff predicted high in the Sierra Nevada.

The snow was expected to be a boon for the snowpack in California, which is flirting with a sixth straight year of drought.

Some highways flooded in the San Francisco Bay Area when more than an inch of rain fell overnight. Mud and rockslides were reported in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The San Lorenzo River was swollen and the Big Sur River was also above flood stage, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or major property damage.

Flood warnings and watches were issued for 11 counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, and forecasters said heavy rains would last through Thursday.

In Oregon, a major winter storm slammed Medford with its snowiest day in nearly a century.

More than 8 inches fell at the airport Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Eleven inches of snow fell on a December day in 1919.

Snow was also falling in Wyoming, where a winter storm warning has been posted for much of the Interstate 80 corridor, including Cheyenne. Heavy snow was also expected in Colorado.

In New Mexico, forecasters said a blustery winter storm will produce significant snowfall and strong winds across much of the northern and eastern parts of the state beginning late Wednesday and peaking early Friday.

The storm in California should boost the snowpack that provides about a third of California's water in normal years for drinking, farming and wildlife when it melts in warm, dry months.

The first manual survey of the snowpack this year revealed Tuesday that it holds about half as much water as normal, casting a shadow on the state that's hoping for an end to the drought.

Surveyors took the reading at 6,000 feet near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada, where storms were expected to dump four to five feet of snow

The Sierra Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning for the mountains around Lake Tahoe after a storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on area ski resorts.

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Associated Press writer Kristin Bender in San Francisco and Scott Sonner in Reno contributed to this report.