Powerful blizzard dumps snow across Sierra Nevada with 145 mph wind gusts in biggest storm of the season

Powerful blizzard dumps snow across Sierra Nevada with 145 mph wind gusts in biggest storm of the season

A powerful blizzard is underway in the Sierra Nevada and forecast to bring relentless snow over the next two days, with wind gusts already clocking 145 mph at the highest peaks in the Sierra and creating dangerous white-out conditions.

This is the biggest snowstorm for the Sierra season, with blizzard warnings active for the Sierra Nevada and parts of eastern Nevada.

Heavy snow is falling, with areas forecast to pick up between five to 10 feet of snow, and localized areas up to 12 feet.

Skiers in California (Andy Barron / AP)
Skiers in California (Andy Barron / AP)

With snow falling two to four inches an hour, travel is life-threatening and impossible, and portions of the highly-traveled Interstate 80 will likely close for days.

California Highway Patrol in Truckee, California, said Friday that “travel is highly discouraged,” noting that conditions over Donner Summit deteriorated Thursday night, causing “a traffic mess.” Trucks are now at maximum restrictions.

Adding to the wintry mix, winds are roaring. A 145 mph wind gust was reported on the high peaks west of Lake Tahoe. Strong winds gusting 50 to 100 mph will be possible this weekend for the Sierra chain and all elevated areas and mountains across California and into Utah.

The snow and wind will taper off by Sunday.

A worker clears snow (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
A worker clears snow (Mario Tama / Getty Images)

The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, based in Soda Springs, California, said Friday it received 19.1 inches of snow in the last day.

“Conditions have already deteriorated this morning with gusty winds and significantly reduced visibility. The next 24 hours will be the heaviest portion of the storm," the lab said.

Meanwhile, a backcountry avalanche watch is in effect through 5 p.m. local time Sunday for the central Sierra Nevada Mountains between Yuba Pass and Ebbetts Pass, including the Greater Lake Tahoe area with “high to extreme” avalanche danger and “large to very large avalanches expected.”

Yosemite National Park asked visitors to be out by Friday afternoon due to possibly dangerous conditions through at least noon Sunday.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has prepositioned fire personnel and equipment in multiple counties “to be able to respond if needed” due to the winter storm.

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo said Friday: “This storm is expected to bring dangerous temperatures and conditions to our state, and it’s critical that Nevada families are prepared.”

He said that the state’s department of transportation, energy and emergency management are working “to maximize preventative measures and recovery efforts.”

Several school districts, including Northern Nevada’s Washoe County School District and Storey County Schools, and California’s Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and Lake Tahoe Unified School District, were closed Friday due to the weather.

Large snowstorms are common in March. Sierra snowfall usually reaches its peak snowpack on April 1 before the melt season begins.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com