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High winds in northern Nevada hamper travel, cut power

RENO — Winds gusting more than 100 mph downed power lines in northern Nevada on Tuesday, causing power outages for thousands of Reno residents and wreaking havoc with travel as a storm dumped snow and rain on the Sierra.

The California Highway Patrol closed part of westbound U.S. Interstate 80 north of Lake Tahoe Tuesday morning after wind flipped a truck on its side and snow began to fall. As much as a foot of snow was expected in the upper elevations by Wednesday morning.

About 5,000 homes and businesses were without power in Reno, where the wind ripped shingles off roofs, toppled fences, blew a school bus’ door off its hinges and uprooted hundreds of trees, including a 70-foot-tall pine.

More than a dozen flights were canceled at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, where sustained winds up to 63 mph were reported. Winds gusted to 107 mph just south of town on U.S. Highway 395 and topped the 125 mph mark early Tuesday at the Mount Rose Ski Resort between Reno and Lake Tahoe, the National Weather Service said.

Fire officials were trying to determine if wind-whipped power lines caused a fire at an apartment complex in Stead just north of Reno.

Up to a foot of snow was expected by Wednesday morning in the mountains above Lake Tahoe and as much 5 inches at lake level while rain was forecast in Reno.

Power was out at as many as 20 schools in the Reno area at various times on Tuesday. All remained open but children were kept inside and off the playgrounds because of blowing debris.

"We are doing everything necessary to keep our students out of harms way because of the high winds," said Chris Smith, emergency manager for the Washoe County School District.

Five school buses suffered damage but they were running and picking up students, said Frank Garrity, district transportation director.

"It just may take a little longer to get home this afternoon because of the possibility of downed trees or power lines," he said.

Wind also caused power outages for about 600 people in the Minden-Gardnerville area south of Carson City.

Gusts in excess of 40 mph also were reported 400 miles further south in Las Vegas, where Clark County air quality officials issued a dust advisory through Wednesday morning out of concern the air could become dangerous for children, the elderly and people with respiratory diseases.

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