The National Weather Service is predicting blizzard conditions in the Tahoe Basin on Thursday, with winds gusting over the ridge tops in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) and as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow in the upper elevations by the weekend.
A rare blizzard warning goes into effect at 8 a.m. Thursday through 4 a.m. Friday.
The weather service in Reno issued a winter storm warning earlier for the Tahoe region effective from 10 p.m. Wednesday through 10 a.m. Saturday.
The service says the biggest storm of the season so far could create a “life-threatening situation.”
It says strong winds and heavy snowfall rates will cause whiteout conditions with blowing snow. Travel will be very difficult to impossible, especially Thursday into Friday morning.
The service advises avoiding travel if possible. If traveling is necessary, be prepared with an emergency kit and allow for extra time.
The avalanche danger also is expected to rise to the high category from 7 a.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Saturday.
Should the storm materialize, it would add greatly to the below-average snowpack in the Sierra. One expert said it could increase the snowpack by as much as 20 percent.
It comes on the heels of a winter storm that brought a foot of snow to South Shore resorts Monday.
The Associated Press and Tahoe Daily Tribune staff compiled this report.