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Lake Tahoe tourists snowed in as winter storm forces closure of I-80, Highway 50

By J.R. Stone

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    LAKE TAHOE, California (KABC) — For the third day in a row, I-80 is closed due to blizzard conditions in the Sierra.

Highway 50 was also closed for several hours, and reopened around 10 p.m. Monday to drivers who have chains on their tires.

There is still no timetable from Caltrans on when I-80 will reopen.

Many Bay Area residents who had been hoping to come back are stuck. The snow is still falling and once the highways are cleared, then trees and power poles must be cleared.

“That’s the snow. Up to the top of the doorframe,” said Brentwood resident Mike Smallwood.

Smallwood and his family are snowed in with feet of snow outside of the vacation home they’re renting.

“Yesterday snowpocalypse happened! Of course, I grew up driving in snow and those kind of things but I’ve never ever, I’m going to tell you, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” says Smallwood.

And while the snow is scenic, the situation is concerning and dangerous. Judith Hondoy is now staying at a hotel with her family. They left Reno Sunday at 10 a.m. and hit whiteout conditions by early afternoon, leaving them stranded in South Lake Tahoe.

“It was just horrible because the wind picked up really bad and it was just blowing snow. We’re actually at the office trying to extend it for one more night cause it’s just getting so bad,” says Hondoy.

In fact, Hondoy says that the hotel didn’t have room and some stayed in their cars. Something that was witnessed at gas stations all across the region.

“The young lady in there said that it’s all the people that just can’t get out of Tahoe and they are literally hanging out at the gas station all day,” says Smallwood.

Those with Palisades Tahoe say the snow is chest deep and ski operations are closed due to safety concerns.

“We got 30 inches of snow in the last 24 hours on our upper mountains. Highway 89, which is the route from Truckee to Tahoe City, we had an avalanche on that road today right outside of Alpine Meadows Road,” says Spychalsky.

Just getting food is a challenge too. Viewers sent us pictures and video of what it looked like mid-Monday from Harvey’s in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“With every highway closed we’re just kind of sitting and waiting and seeing what happens,” says Smallwood.

The CHP is warning drivers of taking sideroads in the area. They say many are closed and unsafe for travel. No timetable on when the main roads could open back up.

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