BLACK SKIES, HIGH WINDS | NevadaAppeal.com

BLACK SKIES, HIGH WINDS

Staff and AP reports

High winds knocked out power to more than 6,000 Carson City and Douglas County NV Energy customers on Thursday.

The company's website reported outages affecting thousands of customers in Douglas County. There were 48 outages affecting 2,699 Carson City customers at high points Thursday. Outages were prevalent across Northern Nevada on Thursday.

Late Thursday night, NVEnergy reported there were still 3,682 Douglas County residents affected by outages while in Carson City there were 218 residents affected by outages.

A high wind warning was in effect for Western Nevada through 4 a.m. today.

At 9:51 a.m. a wind gauge in central Carson Valley recorded a 66 mph gust. Minden-Tahoe Airport recorded a 54 mph wind gust at 10:15 a.m. A gauge on Kingsbury Grade recorded a 58 mph gust.

Douglas County dispatch received several reports of branches in power lines along Highway 50 at Tahoe.

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Regionally, winds gusting to 140 mph in Sierra Nevada passes ahead of a powerful Pacific storm sent surfers into Lake Tahoe, toppled trees onto homes and a church, forced school closures and grounded commercial airline flights in Reno, authorities said.

No injuries were reported from the storm that National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Wallmann said was expected to deposit up to 3 feet of wet snow in higher elevations, a foot in elevations below 7,000 feet, and rain in the Reno-Sparks area.

"As far as rain and snow, it'll be a significant storm, but not a record-setter," Wallmann said of the wet weather that marched first through the San Francisco Bay Area. He noted that a rain storm in February dumped almost 6 inches of rain in Tahoe City and up to 5 feet of snow in Sierra Nevada mountains above 7,000 feet.

The sheriff's office in California's El Dorado County posted a notice that South Tahoe and Mount Tallac high schools and five other campuses in the South Lake Tahoe area were closed Thursday due to a power outage.

A social hall at St. Theresa Catholic Church in South Lake Tahoe was damaged by a large fallen tree, said Eric Guevin, Tahoe Douglas fire marshal. But the tree narrowly missed a prominent statue in an outdoor courtyard.

Wallmann said winds at Reno-Tahoe International Airport reached 71 mph Thursday, topping 70 mph for the first time since November 2009.

At least 30 commercial flights were canceled in the morning, airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said, and officials advised travelers to contact their airline before heading to the Reno airport.

"Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and San Francisco are all seeing really heavy weather," Kulpin said, referring to airports in Northern California. "It's an airline decision, not the airport, to cancel. But they don't want to have aircraft stuck on the ground.

"We'd rather see snow than wind," Kulpin added. "We can move snow. We can't move wind."

High wind warnings extended from Gerlach, about 90 miles north of Reno, to as far south as Bridgeport, California, and to points east including Fallon, Lovelock, Hawthorne and Yerington.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper David Gibson said high-profile vehicles were banned on Interstate 580 between Reno and Carson City. Areas of blowing dust were expected to reduce visibility to a mile or less along Interstate 80 east of Fernley and on U.S. Highways 50 and 95.

At least seven homes were damaged by felled trees in the Zephyr Cove and Stateline area, Guevin said, and downed power lines sparked a wildfire that firefighters extinguished north of Cave Rock.

Crews also removed trees blocking several roads, including U.S. 50 near Zephyr Cove.

Waves of 6 to 7 feet on Lake Tahoe drew surfers and adventurous kayakers like Scott Sady, a photographer from Reno who donned a wetsuit and strained to paddle into the wind for short surf rides back to shore.

Sady said waves pounded breakwaters, jetties and docks in areas where most pleasure boats have been removed for winter.

"I got a few good rides," he said.

Guevin said low lake levels due to drought may reduce the chance of damage to buildings and property.

The brunt of the storm hit the San Francisco Bay Area, flooding freeways, toppling trees and keeping thousands of people home from work and school.

"It's a big storm, as we expected, and it's headed south with very powerful winds and heavy rainfall," said National Weather Service meteorologist Will Pi.

In Oregon, strong winds felled a tree, killing a homeless man who was sleeping on a trail, and a teenage boy died after a large tree fell on the vehicle in which he was riding, causing it to swerve and hit another tree.

This "Pineapple Express" storm carried warm air and vast amounts of water in a powerful current stretching from Hawaii to the mainland.

and up into Northern Nevada.