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A snowstorm is heading into the Sierra Nevada, prompting “dangerous” blizzard conditions and avalanche warnings in the region. 

The storm is expected to drop 5-12 feet of snow over the weekend, making travel difficult. It is coupled with a blizzard warning covering an area of over 300 miles. 

“The most intense combination of snow and wind will come together over the Sierra Nevada, where a powerful blizzard is expected,” the National Weather Service (NWS) said

The NWS Reno, Nev., office said Thursday that “your safe travel window is over in the Sierra – best to hunker down where you are.”

The Pacific storm moved in Thursday, prompting road closures and power outages. The more extreme conditions will be present at the peaks of the Sierra, where winds will exceed 100 mph. Along with falling snow, the combination will significantly decrease visibility. 

Yosemite National Park will be closed through Saturday, or possibly later, the National Park Service said Thursday. Park visitors were advised to leave as soon as possible and no later than Friday evening. 

The California Highway Patrol imposed travel restrictions on parts of the Interstate 80 between Sacramento, Calif., and Reno. 

But there might be one benefit to forecasted snow: Water. The Sierra Nevada’s snowpack supplies around 30 percent of California’s water needs, according to the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR). 

Millions of people in the West depend on melting snowpack for drinking water and hydropower. The latest survey by CDWR shows a continued improvement from the start of the year, with statewide snowpack getting around 18.7 inches.

“No matter how the season ends, we are ready to take advantage of the water we do have to benefit communities, agriculture, and the environment, and continue storing stormwater in our groundwater basins for future use,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said.

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