Storm slams Carson Country

Winter walloped the Sierra Nevada on Monday with a sustained fury that left more than 2 feet of snow at the higher elevations with a promise of more on the way.

''It's been snowing heavy all morning,'' Monica Bandows, spokeswoman for Heavenly Ski Resort on the south shore at Lake Tahoe, said around noon.

''We're close to 3 feet at this point.''

Two avalanches were reported as the heavy snows fell in the higher elevations. Wet roads caused a number of accident in Carson Country.

Bandows added that soon the resort, which boasts one of the best snow-making operations around the lake, can turn off their 400 "snow-guns" and concentrate natural white powder.

The biggest storm of the season pushed into the region on Sunday and Monday and held much of the Sierra in a wintry grip that made travel slow and treacherous, even through the valley floor.

Two to three inches were reported in Carson City after the Monday morning snowfall.

Chains or snow tires were required on all mountain passes, including Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, U.S. 50 over Echo Summit and California 88 over Carson Pass, where an avalanche trapped a vehicle.

An avalanche slid at about 5:30 p.m. on the Mount Rose Highway, closing the road from Reno to Incline Village. Initial reports indicated that a car had been buried in the slide, but the driver was uninjured.

A winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service remained in effect through Tuesday night. Forecasters predicted up to another 4 feet of snow could accumulate at the higher reaches of the mountains by Tuesday. A freezing level of 6,500 feet Monday is expected to drop to 6,000 feet today.

Occasional snow is expected through midweek, forecasters said.

In the valleys of western Nevada, Monday's storm was mixture of snow which turned to rain as afternoon approached.

Pre-dawn commuters got a slippery surprise between Reno and Carson City, where fist-sized snowflakes on U.S. 395 through Washoe Valley made for poor visibility and a slick road.

''There's snow and slush and ice down there,'' said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Bowers. ''It's a mess.''

Chains or snow tires were also required on roadways leading out of Reno, the Mount Rose Highway and Geiger Grade to Virginia City.

Authorities reported numerous spinouts and minor traffic accidents, but no major incidents or injuries were reported.

In Carson City, the sheriff's department responded Monday to three non-injury accidents, Chief Deputy Scott Burau said. "Overall, considering the weather, it was a pretty mellow day."

The storm was the second system of the season to bring much needed snow to the region.

As January began, the Sierra snowpack stood at only a fraction of what is considered normal. Many ski resorts struggled to make their own snow to lure skiers to the slopes.

Overall, the Sierra snowpack in early January was 22 percent of normal following the seventh driest December since record keeping began nearly 80 years ago.

For ski resort operators, the latest storm lends some assurance of a successful season.

''We are very happy. We'll be 100 percent open by tomorrow,'' Bandows said. Because of the slow start to the ski season, the resort may not realize a record year, ''But we'll be right on track,'' she said.


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