State offices close as heavy snow, 116 mph wind slams Sierra

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Sierra storm packing heavy snow and winds gusting up to 116 mph (186 kph) prompted an avalanche warning Thursday in the mountains above Lake Tahoe, halted interstate traffic and closed schools and state offices in Nevada.

Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the early closure of state government offices at 3:30 p.m. in Carson City, Reno-Sparks and three neighboring counties. The storm was expected to bring up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow to the crest of the Sierra by Friday morning.

More than a 30-mile (48-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 80 west of the California-Nevada line was closed to truck traffic because of poor traction and numerous spin outs. Chains were required on all but four-wheel drive vehicles with chains. There were no immediate reports of any serious injuries.

Wind gusts in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) were reported Thursday at ski resorts on Lake Tahoe's west shore, including 116 mph (186 kph) at the summit of the Alpine Meadows ski resort, the National Weather Service said.

The Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee, California, issued an avalanche warning for the back-country for most of the central Sierra, including the Tahoe area stretching from the Yuba pass on Highway 49 in the north to Ebbetts pass on Highway 4 to the south.

A winter storm warning was scheduled to expire at 10 p.m. Thursday at Tahoe. The National Weather Service said the strong winds were expected to decrease through the evening as more precipitation moves in from the west and the strong cold front moves east.

Up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow was possible at lake level, with as much as a foot (30 cm) possible overnight above elevations of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters), the weather service said.

Winds gusted to 86 mph (138 kph) near the Mount Rose ski resort southwest of Reno, where snow was falling in the valleys and as much as 5 inches (13 cm) was forecast in the foothills.

All schools were closed Thursday in Incline Village on Tahoe's north shore. Truckee Meadows Community College closed early in Reno, and local districts canceled after-school activities in Reno, Sparks and Carson City.