California’s crippling blizzard conditions continue Sunday before catching brief break from winter weather

The adverse weather has been fueled by a wide-reaching area of low pressure that has spanned much of the West Coast and fed a constant stream of snow that was expected to add up to 5 feet or more in the higher elevations and 2-5 feet in lower elevations where many residents live.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A dayslong powerful blizzard that has blasted California and the West with feet of mountain snow, wind gusts as high as 190 mph and even a rare tornado is continuing on Sunday before winter weather conditions subside a bit ahead of another round of snow and high wind gusts returning to the region at the start of the new workweek.

The adverse weather has been fueled by a wide-reaching area of low pressure that has spanned much of the West Coast and fed a constant stream of snow that was expected to add up to 5 feet or more in the higher elevations and 2–5 feet in lower elevations where many residents live.

This graphic shows the top snow totals in California and Nevada since Friday, March 1, 2024.
(FOX Weather)


Several highways and mountain passes were closed due to the storm, including the busy Interstate 80 that links San Francisco to the Lake Tahoe region and Reno in Nevada via the Sierra Nevada mountain range. CalTrans crews shut down a 50-mile stretch of the roadway Friday evening from Drum Forebay to the California-Nevada state line after multiple spinouts were reported amid blizzard conditions

The closure was extended farther west to Colfax, California, and there's no estimated time for the interstate to reopen.


"(Friday) night we had a mass amount of vehicles stuck over Donner Summit and it took several hours for emergency personnel and tow trucks to reach motorists," officials with the California Highway Patrol posted on X. "At one point, emergency personnel and tow trucks had a difficult time getting to motorists due to blizzard conditions."

Troopers worked to help clear the road of abandoned vehicles left on the freeway after drivers were taken to a safe location, reiterating there is no estimate of when I-80 will reopen.


Blizzard Warnings continue for parts of the Sierra Nevada, including the popular Lake Tahoe area, and are expected to last through Monday morning. A potentially deadly combination of extreme snowfall rates and hurricane-force wind gusts will continue, with whiteout conditions and rapidly accumulating and drifting snowfall.

Lake Tahoe's Palisades Ski Resort at 8,700 feet has recorded multiple wind gusts over 150 mph since Friday, including one measurement of a gust clocked at 190 mph Friday night, while a gust measured 84 mph closer to town. 

This graphic shows the top wind gusts in California since Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.
(FOX Weather)


Even more dangerous, forecasters now warn of a chance of thunderstorms that could bring incredible snowfall rates of 4–6 inches per hour.

"Storms of this magnitude are rare and capable of closing major roads and damaging power infrastructure for extended periods of time," the NWS warned. "Make sure you have food, water, and a secondary heat source for more than several days in your home in case of extended power outages."


Yosemite National Park was shut down Thursday night ahead of the storm, which was forecast to bring several feet of snow to the park. The park will remain closed through at least noon Sunday, and possibly longer, National Park Service officials said.

Elsewhere, Winter Storm Warnings are posted for the combination of snow and gusty winds across other parts of Northern California. In parts of western Nevada, including Reno, a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. PST on Sunday.

Tornado touches down in Central California valley

The bad weather wasn’t confined to the Sierra Nevada. A tornado touched down in the San Joaquin Valley on Friday evening, triggering a rare Tornado Warning for the region.

Despite the alerts, residents from all over the San Joaquin Valley took photos and videos of the funnel and the subsequent tornado as it worked northbound through properties used for residential and agricultural purposes.

Local authorities did not report any injuries associated with the event, and it was thought the twister was only briefly on the ground. An NWS storm survey team was scheduled to head to the area Saturday to assess the twister’s strength and any impacts.

In San Francisco, where wind gusts reached as high as 54 mph, four people were injured when a massive tree branch came crashing down on a car, according to the city’s fire department. All four were taken to a local hospital for treatment, but the extent of their injuries wasn’t given.

Nevada faces hurricane-force wind gusts 

The massive area of low pressure swirling across the West is also helping to produce damaging winds across Nevada that have caused power outages.

NV Energy, the state's largest utility provider, reported more than 25,000 outages on Saturday afternoon, which included parts of the famous Las Vegas Strip.

The company asked for customers' patience as some of the outages could have been extensive, especially in the mountainous regions. Outage numbers dropped significantly by Sunday, with PowerOutage.US reporting less than 1,000 outages.

Harry Reid International Airport recorded a wind gust of 68 mph, which made the day the windiest March date since 1985.


Current power outages in the West.
(FOX Weather)


Outage numbers have also dropped in California, with PowerOutage.US reporting more than 19,000 on Sunday afternoon.

When will the snow end?

While the strong winds and heavy snow should begin to taper off later Sunday, snow remains in the forecast for the region well into the week ahead as the broad area of low pressure continues to send a stream of moisture and wind into the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The National Weather Service said increasing precipitation chances, including additional heavy snowfall, is expected from the southern Cascades into the northern Sierra and potentially inland across the northern Great Basin.

"Timing and the location of the heaviest amounts remain uncertain at this time, but another influx of moisture from the Pacific is expected," the NWS said.

Drier weather promises to return later in the week, though the extended forecast hints at a return of storm activity the following week.

"We are hoping you are ready to be in this for the duration, because you will be either way," NWS forecasters in Reno, Nevada, said.