The National Weather Service is predicting dangerous blizzard conditions in the Lake Tahoe area on Thursday, with winds gusting over the ridge tops in excess of 100 mph (160 kph). As much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) of new snow is expected to fall on upper elevations by the weekend.
A rare blizzard warning goes into effect at 8 a.m. Thursday and runs through 4 a.m. Friday. A winter storm warning begins at 10 p.m. Wednesday and extends through 10 a.m. Saturday.
Storm watches and winter advisories also will be in effect for most all of northern Nevada, from Reno to the Utah state line during much of that time period as the biggest storm of the season makes its way across the region.
Avalanche danger will rise into the high category in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, where winds could gust up to 125 mph (200 kph) on the ridges and 40 to 60 mph (65 kph to 95 kph) in wind-prone valleys, the weather service said Wednesday.
"Strong winds will combine with very heavy snowfall rates to create dangerous, potentially life-threatening ... whiteout conditions," the weather service in Reno said in a statement.
Travel will be difficult Thursday and Friday with damage to some trees and power lines likely, the service said.
"Even a short walk could be deadly if you become disoriented," the weather service said.
Anywhere from 2 to 5 feet (60 centimeters to 1.5 meters) of snow is expected in the upper elevations around Tahoe, with 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 centimeters) at lake level.
A winter weather advisory runs from 4 p.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Saturday along the Sierra's eastern front, including Reno and Carson City where 2 to 5 inches (6 to 12 centimeters) is expected on the valley floors and up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) in the foothills.
In north-central and northeast Nevada, a winter storm watch began Wednesday afternoon for parts of Lander, Eureka, Nye, Elko and White Pine Counties. It runs through Saturday afternoon. A half-foot of snow (15 centimeters) is forecast in the valleys and up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) in the mountains.