Multiple spinouts closes EB I-80 through Sierra
UPDATE, Jan. 16, 3 p.m.: Caltrans reported traffic was being held on eastbound I-80 at Colfax due to multiple spin outs just before 3 p.m. It's unknown when the road will reopen.
A cold and fierce winter storm blasted the northern Sierra Thursday afternoon, and the National Weather Service is advising people to avoid roadways through the mountains and even the foothills.
Pushing frigid air from the Gulf of Alaska into the region, the storm is expected to dump snow at elevations as low as 2,000 feet.
"We are highly discouraging any mountain travel," said National Weather Service forecaster Hannah Chandler-Cooley. "It’s going to be brutal with gusty winds and near whiteout conditions."
The NWS has a winter storm warning in effect through 6 a.m. Friday in the northern Sierra and southern Cascades. Chain control, road closures and major travel delays are likely.
As of noon on Thursday, chain control was in effect on many northern Sierra highways including I-80 between Colfax and Truckee to Colfax in both directions, SR-89 between Truckee to Sierraville, R1 between Calpine and Plumas County Line, SR-267 between Northstar and Kings Beach and SR-20 between Washington Road and I-80. As of noon, there was no chain control on I-50. Check Caltrans for updates.
Heavy snowfall developed across Donner Pass on I-80 by mid- to late-morning with high snowfall rates of two to three inches an hour continuing into the evening.
The NWS tweeted a Caltrans webcam image from Donner Pass at noon Thursday showing whiteout conditions. "Conditions will continue to worsen into the afternoon," the tweet read. "Avoid mountain travel."
Between Thursday morning and evening one to two feet of snow is expected to fall at elevations above 2,500 feet. Higher elevations could see up to three feet.
"That’s really significant," said Chandler-Cooley. "That’s a lot. Sometimes we get that much over a couple days."
Snowfall expected to linger into Friday morning and ease into the afternoon.
Amy Graff is a digital editor with SFGATE. Email her: firstname.lastname@example.org.