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April 18, 2019

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Snowboarder found dead in blizzard at Lake Tahoe ski resort


Randy Pench/The Sacramento Bee / AP

A truck heads west through the snow on Interstate 80, Thursday, March 1, 2018, near Donner Summit, Calif.

Updated Friday, March 2, 2018 | 2:24 p.m.

RENO — A snowboarder was found dead today at a Lake Tahoe ski resort after a blizzard packing winds gusting to nearly 150 mph over the ridge tops dumped 3 feet of snow in the mountains, shutting down area highways, canceling school in Reno and closing state offices throughout northern Nevada.

More than another foot of snow was possible into Saturday.

A blizzard warning expired Friday but whiteout conditions were still possible around Lake Tahoe, where a winter storm warning remained in effect until 10 a.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

The Placer County Sheriff's Office identified the dead snowboarder as 42-year-old Wenyu Zhang of Rocklin, California. His body was located by Squaw Valley Ski Patrol members after friends reported him missing late Thursday night at about the same time a 146 mph wind gust was reported at the top of the resort south of Truckee, California.

The search was suspended overnight due to high avalanche danger but resumed at daybreak Friday. The effort was aided by a tracking program at the resort that reads a computer chip or reflector attached to clothing, boots or helmets.

Zhang was wearing a helmet when he was found. His death has not been determined, the sheriff said.

Interstate 80, which was closed several hours on Thursday, reopened Friday morning but chains or snow tires were required from west of the California-Nevada line across the top of the Sierra, and on all major mountain passes.

"Strong winds will cause whiteout conditions in blowing and drifting snow at times," the Weather Service in Reno said Friday. "Avoid travel if possible. You could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours."

Gov. Brian Sandoval ordered all state offices in the northern half of the state closed Friday due to the inclement weather from Reno east to the Utah line.

Four feet already has fallen at Mammoth Mountain south of Yosemite National Park. Three feet of snow was measured at the Kirkwood resort south of Lake Tahoe and at the Mount Rose ski resort on the southwest edge of Reno.

Up to 6 inches of snow fell in the Reno area, which remains under a winter weather advisory until 10 a.m. Saturday. An 82 mph gust of wind was recorded Thursday on the west edge of Reno near Verdi.

The biggest storm of the season prompted one area ski resort to postpone a ceremony planned Saturday to celebrate the accomplishments of several Lake Tahoe-area Olympians just back from the Winter Games in South Korea.

Snowboarders Jamie Anderson, who won gold and silver medals, Maddie Bowman and Hannah Teter were among those scheduled to attend the daylong event at Sierra-at-Tahoe south of the lake.

The weather system was making its way east toward Utah on Friday. A winter storm warning was in effect until noon Saturday for most of northeast Nevada, where 6 inches of snow had fallen in Elko, and until 7 p.m. Saturday in east-central Nevada, including Great Basin National Park on the Utah line where up to 2 feet of snow is possible in the upper elevations. In Utah, the National Weather Service posted storm warnings beginning Friday and extending through late Sunday morning for the Great Salt Lake Desert, Cache Valley and Wasatch Front.

Forecasters predicted snowfall amounts of up to 1 foot in Cache Valley, up to 20 inches in the Wasatch Mountains and western Uinta Mountains, and localized amounts topping 2 feet in some places.

Rocky Mountain Power spokeswoman Tiffany Erickson told the Salt Lake Tribune that several thousand customers were without power in Tooele after winds knocked down power lines.

The Utah Avalanche Center warned of avalanche danger Friday near Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo, Skyline and the Uintas, and moderate danger near Moab and Abajo.