Winter storm blankets West with deep snow, heads east
RENO, Nev. -- As much of the country awoke to a welcome reprieve from heavy snowfall and ice-slickened roads, a new winter storm in the West snarled holiday traffic and darkened lights on Christmas trees in thousands of homes Thursday.
In the Sierra Nevada, heavy snow and whiteout conditions led police to shut down an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 80 for several hours on Christmas between the California-Nevada line and Applegate, Calif. The state highway patrol cautioned drivers to be prepared for slow going.
Much of northern and southeastern Arizona came under winter storm warnings on Christmas Day as the first of two powerful storms moved across the state.
The National Weather Service said as much as 6 inches of new snow had fallen in Flagstaff by late Thursday morning and another 6 inches could accumulate overnight with the coming of the second storm.
About 10,000 Salt Lake City-area residents were left without electricity to light Christmas trees Thursday morning after nearly a foot of snow fell in the midst of frigid temperatures. Utilities managed to restore power within the hour.
About 2 feet of snow fell overnight in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, bringing totals at some resorts in the past two weeks to 10 feet.
"The powder is so deep, skiers need windshield wipers on their goggles as they come down the mountain," said Homewood Mountain Resort general manager Kent Hoopingarner.
"This is one of the snowiest Christmas holiday periods I can remember," he said.
In the Northwest, hammered by storms over the past week, the weight of snow, ice and water collapsed the roof of Capital High School early Thursday in Olympia, Wash. Assistant Fire Chief Greg Wright estimated that more than 2,500 square feet of roof fell into the building. No one was injured.
Spokane broke a record Thursday for most snowfall in December. As of 4 p.m., Spokane had received 46.2 inches of snow, smashing the previous record of 42.7 inches set in 1996, said Laurie Nisbet of the National Weather Service.
A 21-year-old skier was killed in an avalanche on Christmas Day at the Squaw Valley ski resort in California.
Search crews were looking for two skiers who went missing Thursday afternoon at the Mount Rose ski resort southwest of Reno, Nev.. The Washoe County sheriff's office said they had been in contact with the duo by cell phone, but concerns grew as temperatures plummeted to single digits and winds increased.
In Michigan, slick roads were blamed for a head-on crash that killed two women and critically injured a man Thursday near Farwell.
In New Jersey, a 40-foot tree fell on the car of a Massachusetts family headed to a Christmas celebration early Thursday, killing a grandmother and her son and injuring the man's two young daughters. Authorities were still trying to determine what caused the tree to fall but said winds in the area were blowing about 40 mph at the time of the accident.
Winds gusting to more than 30 mph blacked out thousands of homes and businesses on Christmas in New Hampshire, two weeks to the day after a devastating ice storm knocked out power across much of the region. The utilities Unitil and Public Service Co. of New Hampshire said the outages affected more than 100 communities.
Nearly a dozen flights were canceled Thursday at O'Hare, but no delays were reported, the aviation department said.