Caltrans Urges Safe Driving With Heavy Sierra Snow Expected

A blast of winter is charging through the Sierra Nevada and some locations could see five-feet of snow by Thursday.  The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for now into Wednesday.  That will be followed by a Winter Storm Watch tomorrow afternoon through Thursday night.

Caltrans adds that driving will be more difficult in the greater Sacramento Valley due heavy rain and gusty winds during much of the latter half of this week.

Forecasters say driving will range from difficult to impossible during that time.  The Placer County Sheriff said in a tweet late this morning that snow was already sticking to the roads at lake level in Tahoe City.  That is why Caltrans wants you to be ready for the wintery conditions to reduce your risk of getting hurt or even dying on the highways.

Before you get started with your travels, Caltrans recommends checking weather and road conditions.  You may also call 511 or the Caltrans Highway Information Network at 1-800-427-7623 for travel information. Live traffic cameras can also be useful to check conditions before traveling and are available.


Caltrans suggest you consider the following driving tips:

  • Reduce your speed to match driving conditions and allow more time to reach your destination. Know that bridges and ramps may be more slippery than the roadway.
  • Keep your fuel tank full. Bad weather may cause long delays or closures.
  • Turn on your headlights to see and be seen. Be observant and maintain a safe distance behind snow removal equipment. Do not pass snow plows unless directed to do so.
  • When driving in fog, reduce your speed and use headlights on low-beam along with fog lights. Stay to the right along the white edge line and never stop in the road.  If visibility is not adequate, pull off of the roadway when safe to do so.
  • Do not drive through flooded areas. Safely turn around and find another route.
  • If you start sliding on snow or ice, slowly take your foot off the gas pedal and steer in the direction you wish to travel.  Do not lock your brakes.  Pump the brakes if needed, or apply steady pressure if your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes.
  • Don’t use cruise control.Avoid in-car distractions while driving.
  • If you are stalled, activate your hazard signals and stay with your vehicle.  Conserve fuel by periodically turning your engine on and off while maintaining warmth, but be aware of possible exhaust and carbon monoxide issues.
  • If you approach an emergency, maintenance, or any other vehicles stopped on the side of the road, move over when safe to do so or slow down.
  • Be prepared.  The following actions can help prevent vehicle failures and help if you become stranded:Winterize your vehicle.  Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers, heater/defroster, and exhaust system are in good working order.  Make sure fluids are topped-off, especially windshield washer fluid.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated and always carry tire chains.
  • Pack an emergency kit in your vehicle with the following items: flashlight, blankets, extra clothing, water, snacks, towel, gloves, ice scraper, shovel, broom, sand, and carry a spare key on your person in case you lock yourself out of your vehicle.

Caltrans officials say every vehicle on the road, including those with four-wheel drive or snow tires, should carry chains when traveling in snowy weather.  Highway signs and QuickMap will indicate when chains are required, and you must stop and put on your chains if you see those signs.  Before you get started on the chain install, authorities caution you to pull off the roadway completely.  There areas, especially on major highways over the Sierra, where you will find chain installers who may be available to help you for a fee, but keep in mind that the chain installers are not Caltrans employees.


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