Amtrak passenger train service between Reno and Sacramento, California, is unlikely to resume until at least Friday because of a lingering winter storm that sent an avalanche across the Union Pacific tracks in the Sierra Nevada, railway officials said Wednesday.
Service on Amtrak’s California Zephyr was suspended Tuesday after an avalanche in the mountains west of Truckee, California, where more than 4 feet of snow has fallen over the last two days, with winds gusting up to 114 mph.
A 70-mile stretch of U.S. Interstate 80 also remained closed Wednesday from the California-Nevada line near Reno to Colfax, California. The area around Lake Tahoe was under a winter storm warning until 4 a.m. Thursday.
Two Amtrak trains together carrying nearly 300 passengers stopped and backed down the mountain in both directions on Tuesday and early Wednesday following the avalanche near Donner Pass just south of where I-80 tops the Sierra.
The pass is named after the infamous Donner Party that became stranded nearby and resorted to cannibalism in the 1840s. Amtrak housed passengers free of charge at Reno hotels Tuesday night and planned to do the same Wednesday.
Earlier this week in Oregon almost 200 people were trapped on an Amtrak train that was halted after it hit downed trees during a blizzard.
Service on Amtrak’s California Zephyr between Reno and Sacramento has been suspended until weather conditions improve, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said Wednesday.
Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahan confirmed a “snow slide” occurred at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday about 10 miles west of Truckee, California.
“Union Pacific is working to clear the tracks. There is no ETA on when the tracks will reopen,” he said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said westbound travelers on the route from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area in Emeryville, California would be housed Wednesday night when they arrive in Reno. They’ll ride charter buses to Sacramento Thursday and board a train to Emeryville. He said similar transfers are likely on Friday.
Eastbound travelers from Emeryville will transfer to charter buses in Sacramento bound for Reno, where they’ll board a Chicago-bound train, he said.
In Oregon, the Amtrak train with 183 passengers aboard was stuck for about 36 hours before it got moving again Tuesday. The train was traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles when it got stranded Sunday, putting a strain on passengers as food, patience and even diapers ran short.
Even though I-80 is currently closed our Sierra Snowfighters are still out clearing highways. A huge shoutout to these men and women who work around the clock during all weather conditions. pic.twitter.com/wpUAVWFAXU
— Caltrans District 3 (@CaltransDist3) February 26, 2019