Blizzard conditions in California continued to batter the Sierra Nevada mountains on Sunday, keeping a 70-mile stretch of Interstate 80 closed near the Nevada state line, even as forecasters warned of more snow on the way.

Sections of Interstate 80 to the west and north of Lake Tahoe were made impassable by blowing snow piling up in lanes, with no estimate for reopening, the California Highway Patrol said.

The CHP office in South Lake Tahoe warned motorists that tire chains for improved traction are required on routes through the mountains, where more than 7ft (2.1m) of snow fell over the weekend. The online warning Sunday was accompanied by a photo of a big rig without chains stuck in whiteout conditions on a local road.

“Trying to bypass chain control, no no no!!” the agency said on X, formerly Twitter. “Dangerous and not smart.”

Trying to bypass chain control, no no no!!

Please don’t make the neighborhoods impassable by trying to bypass chain control. Dangerous and not smart.

— CHP South Lake Tahoe (@CHPSouthLake) March 3, 2024

The multiday storm caused traffic backups and closures on I-80 and many other roadways, shut down ski resorts and left thousands of homes and businesses without power.

By Sunday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric had restored power to all but about 5,000 California customers, while NV Energy had reduced its number to roughly 300 homes and businesses. Some ski areas that were planning to reopen had to revise their plans as the strong storm did not wane enough to keep roads clear.

“The storm’s intensity did not let up – in fact, it doubled down overnight,” officials at Sierra at Tahoe posted on the resort’s website. The resort remained closed on Sunday, warning visitors not to attempt the dangerous roads on the mountain.

The national weather service reported more than 5ft of snowfall at the summit of the Sierra at Tahoe resort over the last 72 hours.

A man shovels snow while his daughter shovels from the roof during a powerful multiple day winter storm in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Saturday in Truckee, California. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Palisades Tahoe, the largest resort on the north end of the lake and site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, was among several ski mountains that closed most or all chairlifts for a second straight day Sunday because of snow, wind and low visibility. Palisades reported a three-day snow total of 6ft (1.8m), with more falling.

“We will be digging out for the foreseeable future,” officials said on the resort’s blog.

Kevin Dupui, who lives in Truckee, just northwest of Lake Tahoe, said his snow blower broke, but it doesn’t really matter because there’s nowhere to put all the snow anyway. “We just move it around,” he said Sunday.

Dupui said residents and tourists seem to be mostly heeding warnings to stay home. “The roads haven’t been that safe, so we don’t really want people driving around,” he said.

A second, weaker storm was forecast to bring an additional 1 to 2ft of snow in the region between Monday and Wednesday next week, according to the National Weather Service office in Sacramento.

Near Lake Tahoe, Thomas Petkanas, a bartender at Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village, Nevada, said about 3ft (1 meter) of snow had fallen by midday Saturday. He said patrons shook off snow as they arrived at the brewpub and restaurant.

A person walks during a powerful multiple day winter storm in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Saturday in Truckee, California. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Earlier, the weather service warned that blowing snow was creating “extremely dangerous to impossible” driving conditions, with wind gusts in the high mountains at more than 100mph (160kph).

Avalanche danger was “high to extreme” in backcountry areas through Sunday evening throughout the central Sierra and greater Lake Tahoe area, the weather service said. The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center extended it’s backcountry avalanche warning to Monday morning for the eastern slopes.

California authorities on Friday shut down 100 miles (160km) of I-80, the main route between Reno and Sacramento, because of “spin outs, high winds, and low visibility”. There was no estimate when the freeway would reopen from the California-Nevada border west of Reno to near Emigrant Gap, California.

Travel was treacherous east of the Sierra, where CalTrans also cited “multiple spin outs and collisions” and “whiteout conditions”, as it closed 90 miles (145km) of US 395 from near Bishop in the Owens Valley to Bridgeport, north of Mono Lake.

The CalTrans office in Kingvale, California, roughly 12 miles west of Truckee, lost power on Saturday, affecting its cameras and message boards.

“At this point we are only allowing first responders and Caltrans employees on I-80. No essential big rigs, no ski resort employees,” the Kingvale office posted on social media.

The storm kept the California highway patrol (CHP) busy. During the night, “we had a mass amount of vehicles stuck over Donner Summit and it took several hours for emergency personnel and tow trucks to reach motorists,” said the Truckee CHP office.

A person shovels snow during a blizzard in Mammoth Lakes, California, on 2 March 2024. Photograph: Caroline Brehman/EPA

The CHP said they are working on evaluating roads and recovering vehicles left on the roads after rescuing stranded motorists, but there is no estimate of when the freeway will reopen. “We suggest you stay home. Stay warm and don’t put yourself and your family in a dangerous situation,” the CHP said.

In southern Nevada the weather service issued a warning Saturday for high winds gusting to 70mph (145kph). NV Energy reported almost 29,000 customers without power in and around Las Vegas on Saturday, but by that evening the number had been reduced to about 16,000.

The storm began barreling into the region Thursday. A blizzard warning that was originally issued through Sunday morning was extended to 4am Monday for areas above 6,500ft. A winter storm warning was in effect through 4am Wednesday for elevations above 3,000ft.

Although meteorologists predicted the storm would blow its way out by Sunday evening, another stood poised to continue the assault on northern California as early as Monday. “A stretch of quieter and more seasonable weather is then expected late week into next weekend,” the weather service said.

Rudy Islas spent about 40 minutes shoveling his car out before heading to work at a coffee shop in Truckee, California, on Sunday morning. Neither he nor his customers were fazed by the snow, he said.

“To be honest, if you’re a local, it’s not a big deal,” he said. “I think a lot of people are used to the snow and they prepare for it.”

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