SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Winter weather enveloping California’s mountains for a fourth straight day Friday kept skiers from hitting the slopes at the start of the Presidents Day holiday weekend, with snow so deep that plows could not tackle it and cities scrambled to find places to pile it.
Several routes to the ski mecca of Lake Tahoe shut down, including about 70 miles (110 kilometers) of Interstate 80 from Colfax, California, to the Nevada state line.
I-80 was reopened to passenger vehicles Friday evening.
By Saturday morning, Caltrans was still reporting poor driving conditions and warned commuters their trip to the Sierra could double or triple in time.
Chains were required for travel in many other parts of the towering Sierra Nevada.
Around 10 a.m. Saturday, Placerville CHP put out a warning to drivers going up Highway 50.
Chains are required from Point View to Meyers and they said travelers should expect an 8-10 hour trip if traveling to South Lake Tahoe.
“You have a large snowstorm over several days, add in chain control, intermittent closures for avalanche control, thousands of unprepared motorists, a 3 day weekend, and you get traffic backed up.”
CHP also advised drivers to stop attempting to follow alternate routes on back roads.
“All avid skiers are itching to get out on the mountain, but the roads are pretty treacherous right now,” said Kevin Cooper, marketing director for Lake Tahoe TV.
The storm was expected to dump between 3 and 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) of fresh snow in a region where some ski resorts reported getting 3 feet (1 meter) since Thursday. Officials warned of avalanches in the greater Lake Tahoe Area, where heavy snow and high winds were expected through Sunday.
The heavy snow forced some skiers to cancel their plans.
Aura Campa of Oakland and her partner were hoping to take advantage of their season passes and the fresh powder at Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows resort, but a near-accident on an icy road last weekend made them reconsider.
When a main highway through the Lake Tahoe area was crushed with traffic, she drove her SUV on a side road. Her vehicle didn’t have chains, and when it was going uphill, the vehicle went into reverse.
“That was really scary for us. It was on a tiny hill with a small amount of ice but that was enough for us to think twice about traveling through a snowstorm again,” Campa said. “We’re not going to risk it.”
Authorities told people to stay home as snow kept piling up.
“State Route 267 is so deep that plows can no longer plow. They have ordered up a large blower to try and clear the pass,” Placer County sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Scott said in a tweet with a video of the snow-covered road.