Sierra region bracing for snow and flooding

As people in the Sierra dig out, another storm is already rolling in. An atmospheric river is expected to bring several more feet of snow and a lot of rain, which leads to concerns about snowmelt and flooding. 

Kevin "Coop" Cooper – a Tahoe resident and ski expert - said they are bracing for potentially hazardous conditions. He said this type of moisture could turn the snowpack into what’s known as "Sierra cement."

"Think of snow of like a cake, right? There’s layers and all winter long, we have multiple layers. This heavy wet stuff is going to compress down which could trigger large avalanches in and around the region," said Coop.

Some ski resorts are closing due to this severe weather, including Heavenly, Northstar, Sierra-at Tahoe, and Kirkwood. Coop said the weight of the heavy snowpack could load down houses and other buildings.  

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The South Lake Tahoe Fire Department shared pictures of a roof collapse. The building was red-tagged. Officials are urging people to remove snow loads from rooftops. 

At the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, lead scientist Andrew Schwartz said it has been a deeper-than-average season. 

"California is a land of extremes. That being said, this is the fifth-snowiest year since the lab’s inception in 1946," said Schwartz. 

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The lab is located near Donner Pass and has already seen more than 50 feet of snow this season. The snowiest year was 1952 when the lab recorded almost 68 feet. 

"After many years of drought we are seeing terrific water coming in the form or rain and snow," said Schwartz. "Although it’s not going to solve all our drought issues it’s definitely going to help us."

The extreme weather also forced Yosemite National Park to extend its closure until at least March 17. They need to plow the roads and parking lots, which are buried under more than 6 feet of snow, and assess the damage from these series of storms.