A “significant winter storm” will dump heavy snow and make travel hazardous as it crosses the west of the country over the weekend, forecasters warned early on Saturday.
“High winds, heavy snow and heavy precipitation will reach the Pacific Northwest today and then impact California,” the National Weather Service said in a bulletin.
More than 5 feet of snow is expected in the Sierra Nevada, causing “extremely dangerous travel, especially through mountain passes,” he added.
The U.S. Forest Service activated a backcountry avalanche watch Friday night in the central Sierra, including Tahoe, and warned of higher avalanche danger Saturday through Sunday.
“A winter storm with high winds, high-intensity snowfall and feet of new snow accumulation can lead to widespread avalanche activity in the mountains,” the Forest Service Sierra Avalanche Center said Friday.
“Triggering avalanches would be easy on steep slopes in exposed, sheltered areas where fresh snow is overlying light snow or where windblown snow exists near ridges,” he added.
30 inches of snow was recorded late Thursday evening and overnight in Yosemite atop Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort near Mammoth Lakes, the most snowfall recorded so far for the region, according to The Associated Press.
Elsewhere, 1 to 3 feet of snow is expected over the West Coast mountain ranges, the NWS said.
As the system moved east, he added, “confidence was unusually high for strong winds and heavy snowfall to produce dangerous impacts,” across the central and northern plains and into the Midwest at from Monday evening.
In California, where the drought continues, heavy rains and volatile weather across the state last week improved drainage basin conditions and soil quality, according to the National Drought Monitor.
Still, storms and extreme rainfall during droughts could cause rivers to burst their banks and cause flash floods, increasing risks for commuters and area residents, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Associated press contributed.