Summer departs with snow, 16-vehicle collision in the Sierra

September storm brings snow on the last day of summer in the Sierra

On the last day of summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, snow fell on the Sugar Bowl slopes.
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On the last day of summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, snow fell on the Sugar Bowl slopes.

Out of the frying pan and into the freezer, the Sacramento chapter of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tweeted Thursday, as the first snow of the season fell over the Sierra on the last day of summer.

With the snow came winter-like travel conditions. Westbound Interstate 80 was closed for approximately four hours due to a series of collisions, one fatal, involving up to 16 vehicles.

The collisions halted westbound I-80 traffic at Eagles Lakes, according to the California Highway Patrol.

CHP spokesman Officer Chris Nave said the initial crash involving two vehicles happened at 11:05 a.m., after the weather turned nasty and hail began to fall.

“There was one two-car collision that triggered a domino effect,” Nave said.

The motorist who died was involved in one of the subsequent collisions, he said.

Westbound I-80 reopened to traffic about 3 p.m.

Snow started falling early in the morning in parts of Placer and Nevada Counties, according to the National Weather Service. NWS meteorologist Hannah Chandler said this storm was dropping snow and rain in isolated showers, as opposed to the big atmospheric rivers that drench the area in the winter.

“It’s probably not as uncommon as people might think,” she said. “September, October and November is kind of what we call the weather roller coaster.”

As of late Thursday afternoon the highest snowfall figure reported was 8.4 inches two miles west of Squaw Valley around the 8,000-foot elevation, said Karl Swanberg, an NWS meteorologist. As of 12:30 p.m. Squaw Valley had reported 3 inches of snow. Sugar Bowl reported 3 to 4 inches, Swanberg said.

Unsettled conditions will continue in the Sierra on Friday, with a slight chance of snow in the morning and a 30 percent chance of snow in the afternoon at higher elevations, he said.

The weekend is expected to be sunny and warmer in the Sierra, with highs ranging from 40 to 60 degrees, depending on the elevation, on Saturday and 50 to 70 degrees on Sunday, Swanberg said.

Snow falls on Placer County Sheriff's Office vehicles Thursday morning in the Sierra.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison

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