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Three metres of snow in wild California blizzard

Anthony Sharwood, Tuesday March 5, 2024 - 12:21 AEDT

A massive snowstorm has slammed California, with American news outlets reporting that up to 11 feet (3.4 metres) of fresh snow has fallen in some areas since Thursday, with the likelihood of more to come.

Highways have closed in many areas, and dramatic footage has emerged of trucks being stuck beside the road with snow piled up to the cabin and drivers unable to open the door.

California snow storm closes highway, threatens avalanches

— Reuters U.S. News (@ReutersUS) March 4, 2024

Ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region, about four hours northeast of San Francisco, were forced to close due to intensely strong winds gusting well over 200 km/h, while extremely heavy snow accumulations made it impossible to clear car parks and operate ski lifts safely.

The snow keeps falling in the Sierra Nevada of California, with homes buried under intense snowdrifts. Over 80" (that is 7 feet) of snow have fallen since Friday and keep falling this morning!

I-80 remains CLOSED from just west of Reno to the foothills until further notice.

— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) March 4, 2024

California can be a hit-and-miss state when it comes to regular heavy snowfalls. While the eastern part of the state is home to the Sierra Nevada range – whose highest peak Mt Whitney (4421m) is America's loftiest point outside Alaska – some years consistent snowfalls are sadly lacking.

That's why Australian snow-lovers tend to prefer states like Utah and Colorado, where the mountains are almost as high, snowfalls tend to be more consistent, and the snow itself typically has a lower moisture content, making its texture more powdery.

California has had numerous severe droughts in recent decades, the most recent from 2000 to 2022, when the Sierra snowpack fell to historic winter lows.

But every second year or so on average, California comes good, and the last two seasons have been huge for snowfalls. Below is a picture from the bumper 2023 season.

Source: iStock.

And here's another view of the latest scenes from the Lake Tahoe area.

Tahoe by Palisades yesterday… photos from Mary Roberts

— James Spann (@spann) March 5, 2024

For the Australian cold weather enthusiasts out there, you'll appreciate this satellite loop showing speckled cloud in the Pacific Ocean tracking in a southeasterly direction from Alaska down towards the west coast of the USA and Canada, including California.

We were just talking on Monday about a speckled cloud field in our story about a brief cold outburst that whipped through Tasmania and the southeastern tip of the Australian mainland on Sunday night.

Most of the ski areas in California are on similar latitudes to the Australian snowfields, but the mountains over there are about twice as high, so you can just imagine what it means for snowfalls when such a powerful, moisture-laden cold airmass sweeps across the state.

We might have to ask the boss to send us over to California on an urgent "meteorological research trip".

- Weatherzone

© Weatherzone 2024

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