By Kyle James  |  03-03-2018   News
Photo credit: @skiheavenly | Twitter

A blizzard with winds gusting to nearly 150 mph dumped 3 feet of snow onto the mountains at Lake Tahoe's Heavenly Mountain Resort leaving a snowboarder dead Friday. The harsh conditions shut down mountain roads, area highways, and canceled school in Reno and state offices throughout Nevada.

Saturday's forecast includes another foot of snow and an avalanche warning has been posted throughout the Tahoe backcountry. The blizzard warning expired Friday but whiteout conditions still threaten the area around Lake Tahoe, according to the National Weather Service.

Placer County Sheriff’s Office said the snowboarder who perished in the avalanche is Wenyu Zhang, 42, of Rocklin, California. Squaw Valley Ski Patrol members located his body after he was reported missing late Thursday night about the same time as a 146 mph wind gust was reported at the top of the resort.

The threat the avalanche posed forced searchers to suspended the search overnight but it was resumed at daybreak Friday. The searchers were aided by a tracking technology that reads a computer chip attached to snow gear. Zhang was wearing his helmet when he was found but the cause of death has not yet been determined.

The harsh conditions also closed Interstate 80 for several hours Thursday but it was reopened Friday morning. Chains or snow tires are still required from west of the California-Nevada line all the way to the top of the Sierra and on all major mountain passes. "Strong winds will cause whiteout conditions in blowing and drifting snow at times," according to the Reno Weather Service.

"Avoid travel if possible. You could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours."

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