A “significant winter storm” will dump heavy snow and make travel dangerous as it makes its way across the west of the country over the weekend, forecasters warned early Saturday.
“High winds, heavy snow and heavy precipitation will reach the Pacific Northwest today, then impact California,” the National Weather Service said in a bulletin.
More than 5 feet of snow is expected in the Sierra Nevada, resulting in “extremely dangerous travel, especially across mountain passes,” it added.
The U.S. Forest Service activated a backcountry avalanche watch late Friday in the central Sierra including Tahoe and warned of higher avalanche danger Saturday into Sunday.
“A winter storm with gale force winds, high intensity snowfall and feet of new snow accumulation may result in widespread avalanche activity in the mountains,” the Forest Service Sierra Avalanche Center said Friday.
“Triggering avalanches would be easy on steep slopes in exposed and sheltered areas where new snow rests on top of weak snow or where wind-drifted snow exists near ridges,” it added.
30 inches of snow was recorded late Thursday night and overnight at Yosemite at the top of Mammoth Mountain ski resort near Mammoth Lakes, the most snow recorded so far in the region, according to the Associated Press.
Elsewhere 1-3 feet of snow are expected across mountain ranges of the west coast, the NWS said.
As the system moved east, it added that “confidence was unusually high for strong winds and significant snows to produce hazardous impacts,” across the central and northern plains and into the Midwest starting Monday night.
In California, where drought is still ongoing, heavy rainfall and unsettled weather across the state last week has improved drainage basin conditions and soil quality, according to the national Drought Monitor.
Nevertheless, storms and extreme rainfall in times of drought could cause rivers to burst their banks and areas of flash flooding, increasing hazards for commuters and residents in the region, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Associated Press contributed.