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Snow dump in Calif.-Nevada mountains

The mountains shared by California and Nevada saw the strongest storm of the season so far, with much as 3 feet of snow snarling travel but improving ski resort conditions.
Motorists adjust their tire chains and brave a Pacific snowstorm near Norden and Donner Summit in Calif., on Sunday. Dino Vournas / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The strongest storm of the season so far in the Sierra Nevada dropped as much as 3 feet of snow, snarling travel through the mountain range but improving ski resort conditions.

Controls were lifted Monday morning on the two major highways linking Sacramento, Calif., to resorts in the Lake Tahoe area: Interstate 80 over Donner Summit and U.S. 50 over Echo Summit, authorities said.

However, the third major trans-Sierra highway, California Highway 88, remained closed near Kirkwood, Calif., because of avalanche-control efforts. Chains or snow tires were required on other highways in the area.

The Kirkwood Mountain Resort just south of Lake Tahoe reported 2 to 3 feet of snow from the weekend storm. Alpine Meadows ski resort just north of Lake Tahoe reported 19 inches to 27 inches.

Sierra resorts have offered only limited operations since a relatively dry start to the season.

“We received all this new snow just in time for the holidays,” said Jody Churich, spokeswoman for Alpine Meadows.

On Sunday, the storm poured heavy rain on Northern California, with 3 to 4 inches on the San Francisco Bay area and more than 7 in Big Sur and parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the National Weather Service said. Wind gusted to 71 mph on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.

More than 50,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers in the Bay Area lost power Sunday because lightning damaged transmission equipment, said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno.

Farther north, freezing rain caused traffic problem around Portland, Ore., and utilities reported scattered power outages.