RENO, NEVADA - Stiff winds toppled a towering evergreen tree into an Oregon home, killing an 8-year-old girl, while blizzard conditions closed roads and triggered a small avalanche in the Sierra Nevada as wet winter storms pummeled much of the West, officials said Wednesday.
The child, Zaylee Schlect, was the daughter of a volunteer firefighter who was working during the storm that downed trees throughout the state on Tuesday night. She was killed in Otis, a town near the coast. Others inside the home were uninjured.
In Nevada, a storm dropped 2 feet of snow and another foot was expected in the upper elevations around Lake Tahoe. The weather closed the main highway between Reno and Lake Tahoe.
“We are looking at near white-out conditions,” state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said. “Crews are up there doing all they can to reopen the road but with these conditions, it is going to take a bit.”
No major accidents
Workers planned to trigger man-made avalanches along Mount Rose Highway and plow the road again before reopening it late Wednesday or Thursday.
Nevada state trooper Dan Gordon said there were no reports of major accidents.
“Just a lot of slide-offs and roadway conditions that are just horrendous — really treacherous,” he said. Even cars with chains were getting stuck and sliding off the road, he said.
The storm could be a boon for drought-plagued California by boosting the snowpack that provides about a third of the state's water in normal years when it melts in warm, dry months.
Flooding a concern
Flash flood watches were issued for most of the Sierra along the Nevada-California line, where the National Weather Service said the potential for another 6 to 12 inches of rain would create serious flooding concerns into the weekend.
Some highways flooded in the San Francisco Bay Area, and mud and rockslides were reported in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The San Lorenzo River was swollen and the Big Sur River was also above flood stage.
Flood warnings and watches were issued for 11 counties in the region, and forecasters said heavy rains would last through Thursday.
Elsewhere, the snowiest day in nearly a century was recorded Tuesday in Medford, Oregon, where more than 8 inches fell at the airport, according to the National Weather Service. Eleven inches of snow fell on a December day in 1919.
In Utah, snow that accumulated over several days caused the roof of a business to collapse in Provo. No injuries were reported.
Snow was also falling in Wyoming, where a winter storm warning was posted for much of the Interstate 80 corridor, including Cheyenne. Heavy snow was also expected in Colorado.
In New Mexico, forecasters said a blustery winter storm will produce significant snowfall and strong winds across much of the northern and eastern parts of the state beginning late Wednesday and peaking early Friday.