Incoming storm could deliver 8 feet of new snow to Sierra; Winter Storm Warning in effect
LAKE TAHOE -- A Winter Storm Warning went into effect for the Sierra Thursday morning ahead of the arriving atmospheric river with the mountains facing up to eight more feet of snow from the storm.
The warning will remain in effect through Sunday morning for the Sierra and the southern Cascades. People in those mountain areas are advised to be prepared for chain controls, major travel delays and likely road closures. Winds during the height of the initial storm Thursday into early Friday could gust at speeds 50-70 mph.
California's Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides about a third of the state's water supply, is more than 180% of the average on April 1, when it is historically at its peak.
While Donner Pass in the Sierra is expected to get between five to nearly eight feet of snow, other areas further south including Carson, Ebbets, Sonora and Tioga passes are forecast to receive over 100 inches of snow.
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Heavenly Ski Resort on Tuesday announced it would be closed Friday due to dangers presented by the incoming atmospheric river storm system. Kirkwood and Northstar also announced they would stay closed out of safety concerns from the weather.
The City of South Lake Tahoe on Thursday issued a preemptive local declaration of emergency "to leverage all available tools from local, state, and federal resources in response to potential impacts from the forecasted atmospheric river."
Additional heavy snow is expected between Monday and early Wednesday.
So much snow has fallen in the Sierra and other mountain ranges that residents are still struggling to dig out days after earlier storms.
Roofs collapsed, cars were buried and roads were blocked. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared emergencies in 13 of California's 58 counties beginning March 1.
On the state's far north coast, Humboldt County authorities have organized an emergency response to feed starving cattle stranded by snow.
Cal Fire and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters began dropping hay bales to cattle in remote mountain fields last weekend and then the California National Guard was called in to expand the effort.
Requests for help came from about 30 ranchers, according to Diana Totten, an area fire chief. The hay is being paid for by the ranchers, who provide information on how many head of cattle need to be fed and where they were expected to be located.
"We won't know until the snow melts how many cattle have died due to these conditions," Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said in a statement. "But I know this for certain, if we don't act, there's going to be way more that do die and it will be a catastrophe for our county."
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