- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Winds howled across the top of the Sierra Nevada on Thursday as a storm headed in from the Pacific Ocean toward Northern California and Nevada.

The winter-like system, arriving three weeks into spring, was expected to deliver widespread rain and mountain snow overnight and into Friday, the National Weather Service said.

Gusts up to 115 mph (185 kph) ripped across a few ridges in the Lake Tahoe area, while blasts up to 55 mph (89 kph) hit the Tahoe Basin and some areas north and south, the Reno weather office said.

Up to 4 feet (1 meter) of snow was possible along the Sierra Crest and at Mammoth Mountain, the popular ski resort where more than 45 feet (14 meters) of snow has been recorded this season at the main lodge.

Forecasters warned of significant travel disruptions Friday in the Sierra passes, around the town of Mammoth Lakes and along U.S. 395.

“Avoid travel if possible, you could be stuck in your vehicle for many hours,” the weather service bluntly warned.

Forecasters upgraded a winter storm watch to a warning for heavy, wet snow, effective from midnight Thursday to 5 a.m. Saturday along the eastern Sierra, west of U.S. 395.

All rivers in the region were expected to rise, but the only predicted flooding was expected at Portola on the middle fork of the Feather River.

Showers crossing the upper half of the state were expected to rapidly ramp up to rain late Thursday as the cold front approached, with moderate to potentially heavy rain reaching the San Francisco Bay Area close to midnight.

Accompanying strong winds could make driving difficult as well as topple trees and power lines, the weather service said.

Advisories for small watercraft and gale warnings were in effect along about three-quarters of the California coast.

Rain also was expected to spread south down the Central Coast, possibly as far as Los Angeles County.

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