Sierra Nevada Gets Enough Snow to Shatter Record Set in 1970, Seen Over 193 Inches So Far

Officials said Monday Sierra Nevada shattered their previous record for the snowiest December set in 1970 after reporting over 16 feet of snow so far, with more snow on the way.

Officials at the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory with the University of California Berkeley said Donner Pass in Sierra has a measured 193.7 inches (4.9 meters) of snow breaking the previous record of 179 inches (4.6 meters) of snow set in 1970.

Although there is an abundance of snow now, it wasn't like that earlier in the season. The state's Department of Water Resources said in recent weeks dry weather caused the snow in Sierra to be at a "dangerously low" amount.

However, they said on Monday that the snow was now between 145 percent and 161 percent of normal levels with even more snow expected to come.

The intense snowfall and frigid temperatures have caused road closures, flight delays and government offices to close. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak told everyone—except public safety and corrections workers—to stay home because of the storm.

Weather forecasters warned traveling conditions in the Sierra Nevada region could be dangerous and people could face challenges for several days after key highways have been shut down due to the weather.

Sierra Nevada Snowiest December on Record
Sierra Nevada, California, broke its previous record of the snowiest December on record and reported 193.7 inches of snow so far. Above, residents navigate Broad Street in the snow in Nevada County, California, Monday, December 27, 2021. Elias Funez/The Union/AP Photo

The storms that have been pummeling California and Nevada in recent days also brought rain and snow to Arizona. A record inch of rain in one day was reported at the airport in Phoenix Friday when 11 inches (28 centimeters) of snow fell at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort just outside Flagstaff.

More storms were expected to hit the desert state starting Monday afternoon and continuing throughout the week and snow was again expected in the greater Portland area through Tuesday morning.

Severe weather sweeping parts of the U.S. brought frigid temperatures to the Pacific Northwest and heavy snow to mountains in Northern California and Nevada.

Across western Washington and Oregon officials and private groups opened emergency spaces for people to find refuge as forecasters said the extreme cold from an arctic blast could last until the weekend.

Snow showers blew into the Pacific Northwest on Sunday from the Gulf of Alaska, dumping up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) across the Seattle area and snarling traffic throughout the greater Seattle and Portland areas.

The National Weather Service said Seattle's low Sunday was 20 degrees F (-6.7 C), breaking a mark set in 1948. Bellingham, Washington, was 9 degrees F (-12. 8C), 3 degrees colder than the previous record set in 1971.

State officials in Oregon have declared an emergency. In Multnomah County—home to Portland—about a half dozen weather shelters were open. Seattle city leaders also opened at least six severe weather shelters and the mayor declared an emergency.

Utilities reported about 5,000 customers without power Monday in western Washington and Oregon.

With temperatures in western Washington and Oregon not forecast to rise above freezing for days, officials were planning on keeping emergency shelters for longer than initially expected.

Kaety West walked a short distance in the snow from the tent where she usually stays to find refuge at a small warming center at an American Legion hall.

"I'm not even willing to stay in it right now. It's just so difficult," she said of her tent on Monday.

Seattle leaders said city shelters will remain open through the new year. Nearly 200 people stayed at the shelters overnight on Sunday, officials said, and they were expecting the numbers to grow.

At the shelter where West went to get warm, American Legion Hall Post 160, there was room for about a dozen people.

Keith Hughes of the American Legion said the capacity is limited by lack of volunteer staff.

"Volunteers, this is a problem for myself as well as everyone else in town, it's really hard to get with COVID going on," he said, adding there were plans to keep the space open for about 10 days.

The last time the Legion post opened its doors long-term as a warming center was three days, Hughes said.

"The longer it goes on the harder it's going to be on people that don't have a place to get out of this," Hughes said. "We'll just keep helping people as much as we can help them."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Car Stuck in Snow, California
It's been a wet winter for Sierra Nevada as they beat their previous record of the snowiest December set in 1970 by more than 14 inches with more snow on the way. Above, a vehicle is stuck in the snow along Brunswick Road and Sutton Way Monday morning, December 27, 2021, in Grass Valley, California. Elias Funez/The Union/AP Photo