An avalanche closes Highway 89; I-80, Highway 50 remains closed; Search for missing Northstar skier – CBS San Francisco

TRUCKEE (CBS SF) – An intense winter storm front, causing strong winds and white blizzard conditions, continued to pound the Lake Tahoe area early Monday, triggering an avalanche that closed Highway 89 near Tahoe City and hampering the search for a missing Northstar skier.

Palisades Tahoe Mountain Operations reported the avalanche – on Hwy 89 between Tahoe City and River Ranch – at around 6:45 am. Moments later, the resort announced it would be closed for the day.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Blizzard blows up High Country; Transsierra roads closed indefinitely

“For security reasons we will not be open for skiing / horseback riding today,” resort officials said on Twitter. “Thanks for understanding.”

The Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee has issued a backcountry avalanche warning for the greater Lake Tahoe area until Tuesday.

“Heavy snowfall and extremely strong winds created unstable avalanche conditions in the mountains,” the center warned. “Large natural avalanches and man-made avalanches are expected.”

Meanwhile, harsh weather conditions were slowing the search for Rory Angelotta, 43, of Truckee, who has been missing since he was last seen Saturday morning at Northstar Ski Resort.

According to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Angelotta was reported missing because he didn’t show up for dinner on Saturday night with friends. Her car was found in the resort parking lot and her calls went directly to voicemail.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office responded and immediately dispatched additional emergency resources, including Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue, Nevada County Search and Rescue and Northstar Ski Patrol on Sunday.

Investigation revealed that around 11:30 a.m. Angelotta’s ski pass was scanned at the Comstock lift. There was no other activity recorded on his pass since that time.

“The researchers responded and combed the mountain and surrounding areas with a fine tooth comb, despite the extreme weather conditions,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Department said. “Rescue personnel were on skis, snowmobiles and snow crawlers during their search. They faced high avalanche danger, strong winds, gusts of whiteout, freezing temperatures and heavy snow loads before interrupting their search in the evening.

The sheriff said Angelotta was an experienced skier and was believed to have avalanche gear with him.

“Research efforts continue today, but due to the ongoing severe storm and closed highways, researchers face significant challenges,” officials said.

Northstar was closed on Monday after experiencing “blizzard conditions over the past few days and receiving over 6 feet of snow in just 48 hours.”

READ MORE: Rock slides close Highway 1 in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties

Nearby, a 70-mile stretch of I-80 remained closed from Colfax through the Lake Tahoe area to the Nevada state border.

Caltrans said late Sunday afternoon that Highway 50 would remain closed in both directions between Placerville and Meyers due to heavy snowfall, at least until Monday. The agency will reassess conditions on Monday morning but does not have an estimated time of reopening.

“Highway 50 is currently closed,” said the CHP. “We couldn’t be clearer… Please don’t try to drive into the snow.”

National roads 20 and 49 are also closed, authorities said. Caltrans said downed trees and power lines from the storm were also contributing to the closures. On State Route 20, officials said there was less than a passable lane width Monday morning.

The blinding driving conditions triggered a 20-car pile-up on Highway 395 southbound in Washoe Valley on Sunday morning. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Department said at least three people were injured and the freeway was closed.

“Expect significant travel delays on all routes,” the National Weather Service office in Reno, Nevada, said on Twitter. “Today is the kind of day to stay home if you can. More snow is on the way too!

Palisades Tahoe had received over 2 feet of fresh snow over a 24 hour period ending Sunday morning. Meanwhile, Northstar near Truckee received 34 inches of fresh snow at the top and 27 inches mid-mountain overnight through Sunday morning.

At the University of California’s Donner Pass officials, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory got an extra 38.9 inches in the past 24 hours to break the previous December record of 179 inches of snow set in 1970.

“Snow rates are still high and we may even cross the 200 mark today,” lab workers tweeted.

The snowpack in the Sierra was at dangerously low levels after the last few weeks of dry weather, but the state’s water resources department reported on Christmas Eve that the snowpack was between 114% and 137% of normal throughout the chain with more snow expected.

A winter storm warning extending through Tuesday has been issued by the National Weather Service for the Lake Tahoe area.

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“Sierra Nevada, which has already picked up several feet of snow locally in recent days, is expected to see an additional 2 to 5 feet of snow through Tuesday,” the weather service said.

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