Max Whittaker  /  AP
Caltrans employee Richard Ramos turns traffic around on Interstate 80 near Alta, Calif., on Thursday morning. A slow-rolling series of storms battered the American West this week.
updated 12/31/2004 12:11:15 PM ET 2004-12-31T17:11:15

More wintry weather pummeled Northern California on Friday, blocking major mountain roads, and storm-weary residents around the state braced for another onslaught later.

As much as 2 feet of snow fell in the Sierra Nevada, and up to 3 feet more were expected, as officials warned travelers to avoid the mountains through the holiday weekend. Up to 8 feet of snow and 70 mph wind gusts were expected in the peaks near Lake Tahoe.

To the south, up to 2 inches of rain was expected Friday in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, following a storm earlier in the week that caused scores of highway accidents and spawned a small tornado. But there was only a small chance of rain for the Saturday morning start of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, the National Weather Service said.

In the Northern Plains, meanwhile, North Dakota braced for heavy snow after a day of icy roads that left hundreds of hockey fans stranded overnight in Grand Forks.

California has taken the brunt of this week’s deadly storms, which have also battered Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. Three to 4 feet of snow have already fallen on Nevada mountains and as much as a foot of snow came down in the mountains of Colorado.

At least 10 people have died, including husband and wife veterinarians killed in a Colorado crash who were nationally known experts on two wildlife ailments, brucellosis and chronic wasting disease.

The Sierra Nevada snow closed Interstate 80 northeast of Sacramento and another major route through Northern California, Highway 50.

On the Northern California coast, authorities warned that storm runoff could contaminate beaches just south of San Francisco, and recreational boaters were advised to stay off the water.

More storms could hit Northern California and Nevada over the next few days.

Five people have died in the storms in California since Monday. In Arizona, searchers Thursday recovered what they believed were the bodies of two missing Prescott College students who had vanished when their canoe capsized. A third body was found at a campground near Fountain Hills.

The wildlife experts, Tom Thorne and his wife, Beth Williams, of Albany County, Wyo., died Wednesday when their pickup hit a jackknifed trailer on U.S. 287 in northern Colorado.

Williams, 53, who had taught at the University of Wyoming since 1982, “was probably the foremost chronic wasting disease expert in the country,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Al Langston said. Thorne, 63, spent 35 years at the department before retiring in 2003 and was a prominent researcher of chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, as well as of brucellosis in bison and elk.

Meanwhile, Canadian fans attending the World Junior Hockey Championship in Grand Forks, N.D., were stranded overnight after Canadian police closed Highway 75, the north-of-the-border leg of Interstate 29.

The Red Cross set up a shelter in Grand Forks’ Alerus Center and served a free breakfast Friday. Spokeswoman Shelly Goss said 385 people had registered at the center.

The road closure was announced during the Thursday afternoon game between Canada and Finland. Canadians cheered the announcement nearly as much as their team’s 8-1 victory.

Freezing rain also was a problem in Vermont, where as many as 60 vehicles slid off a stretch of Interstate 89 early Friday morning, forcing it to be closed for hours until maintenance crews could salt and sand it.

No injuries were reported, state police said.

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