A powerful Sierra storm packing hurricane-force winds ahead of a stream of rain and snow sent huge trees crashing into power lines, leaving tens of thousands of people without power much of Friday along the range’s eastern front stretching about 100 miles from southern Douglas County to north of Reno.
No deaths were reported, but at least a dozen people were hurt in crashes on Nevada highways where dust storms blinded drivers and several trucks overturned.
Winds gusting up to 134 mph over ridge tops early Friday closed ski resorts around Lake Tahoe, snapped dozens of trees more than 2 feet-thick, downed power lines and sparked a series of small brush fires.
There were numerous reports of property damage, mostly broken windows, bent garage doors and flying roofs in Douglas and Lyon counties. Winds gusted up to 90 mph at noon Friday near Gardnerville.
Crews were responding to “numerous calls of down power lines and flying debris from the current wind event,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Brooks said.
Multiple road closures were reported throughout Friday afternoon in Carson City and Douglas County as crews tried to repair downed power lines.
Elsewhere, a 30-inch tree was blown onto a house in South Lake Tahoe, and an outbuilding was split in half when a 2-foot thick pine tree was uprooted about 60 miles northwest of Reno in Graeagle, Calif., the National Weather Service said.
Rain moved in Friday afternoon and 3 inches of snow was reported Friday evening at South Lake Tahoe.
The California Highway Patrol closed a stretch of Interstate 80 from Truckee to Kingvale near where the highway tops the Sierra at Donner Pass after a number of spin-outs were reported late Friday afternoon. The patrol had no immediate information about possible injuries there.
U.S. Highway 95A was closed near the Lyon County fairgrounds after nine people were hospitalized with unknown injuries in a crash that involved at least eight vehicles, the Mason Valley News reported.
The Nevada Highway Patrol also said three people were hospitalized with minor injuries after five cars crashed on U.S. 395 north of Reno near the California line.
The biggest single power outage was in Susanville, where PG&E estimated as many as 10,000 customers would be without electricity into Friday night. More than 13,000 outages were reported around Reno, Sparks and Carson City, according to NV Energy.
Gardnerville Ranchos resident Robert Winter said he’s never seen the wind so bad.
“I’ve lived here 32 years and never seen it like this,” he said. “This is the worst.”
Winter said he lost three 30-foot blue spruce trees.
The wind toppled an appliance delivery truck near Highway 88 and Centerville.
The greater region was under a high wind advisory until 4 a.m. today as a wet Pacific storm moved into the area.
The storm was expected to drop up to 10 inches of rain this weekend in parts of the drought-stricken California region, which won’t make a significant dent in the state’s historic drought, but it’s a welcome change after six dry weeks in the Bay Area. It would take 150 percent of the average rainfall for California to recover from the dry period, state water resource officials say. But snow is more important than rain because snowpack supplies about a third of the water needed by residents, agriculture and industry.
Since Dec. 20, rain has been nearly nonexistent across much of California and Nevada, halting hopes for drought improvement. California’s second snow survey this winter found the Sierra Nevada snowpack is far below normal after a dry, unusually warm January. A higher snowpack translates to more water for California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall.
Water resources managers said heavy rain and cooler temperatures in the next three months would be required for the snowpack to build and give Californians hope for beginning to recover from the drought this year.