A major winter storm is on track to hit the central Sierra today and could bring up to a foot of snow to Western Nevada valleys.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott McGuire said the front edge of the storm arrived Thursday with wind gusts of up to 60 mph recorded in Mono County and 40 mph wind gusts in Reno and Carson City.
"Everything looks on track right now," McGuire said Thursday morning.
"This is a different storm than what we're used to. We have three ingredients coming together, including subtropical moisture tapped all the way from the Philippines trained into a deep low pressure system and a strong jet stream all coming to a head right over the central Sierra."
McGuire said the storm will start with rain today, but that the snow level will lower quickly to the Valley floor.
"We have issued a blizzard warning for the Sierra zones and a high wind watch and winter storm warning for the lee side of the Sierra," he said. "It is a rare occurrence that we do that. We try to reserve that type of warning for a major impacting storm."
Increased winds bedeviled emergency personnel on Thursday.
A power pole crossarm blew down at Highway 88 and Centerville, causing authorities to close the highway. Douglas County deputies on the scene reported winds of about 80 mph.
Sierra Pacific Power Co. crews arrived at about 4 p.m. and repaired the damage.
East Fork firefighters responded to a reported structure fire at about the same time near Foothill Road and Deer Path Lane. They arrived to discover a stump on fire.
Douglas County Communications Director Dick Mirgon said the county is preparing for the worst.
"We're doing some basic stuff like making sure we have enough fuel to make it through one to two weeks in case the distribution routes are interrupted," he said.
"We're working with the Red Cross to identify contacts and shelters so we know where we're going to send people ahead of time in case we need it."
Mirgon said residents should be prepared to be on their own for up to 72 hours in case there is an interruption of government service.
He said that includes stocking up on medications, supplies for babies and children, battery-powered radios, and to charge up their cell phones.
Mirgon said people should use caution when using supplemental heating devices.
Douglas County emergency services personnel held a telephone conference on Thursday afternoon in preparation for the storm.
The Mono County Sheriff's Department Office of Emergency Services is expecting severe winter weather.
"Make sure you and your family have enough food, water, medications and other supplies to sustain you for a period of 72 hours," said Sgt. David W. O'Hara. "With heavy snowfall comes the possibility of high winds, white-outs, power outages and avalanches."
O'Hara recommended those driving during the storm to carry chains, a cell phone, emergency food, water and blankets or sleeping bags.