Caltrans is warning that incoming weekend storms in Northern California will make driving on mountain and valley highways more hazardous from Friday, February 1 through Monday, February 4.
The National Weather Service in Sacramento has issued a winter storm watch ahead of a couple of weather systems that will bring rain to the valley and snow and wind gusts at higher elevations. The first storm is expected to be the heaviest starting on Friday evening. Forecasters say it will result in Sierra snow between 6,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation. By Saturday night the snow levels are likely to fall to around 4,000 feet with 18 to 24 inches of snow accumulation possible over mountain passes during the first half of the weekend.
Throughout northern California, there is a chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms Saturday morning and afternoon which will increase the likelihood of flash floods in wildfire burn areas. Winds of 40 to 45 mph are forecast and may cause blowing debris and downed tree limbs. Drivers are cautioned to remain alert, slow down to accommodate changing weather conditions, and turn on their headlights while on the road.
On Sunday a second, colder storm is forecast to drop another one to two feet of snow at mountain pass levels through early Monday. Snow elevations may drop Sunday evening to around 1,500 to 2,500 feet. However, snow accumulation at lower elevations is expected to be light.
Caltrans officials say you should expect delays and longer travel times due to weekend traffic and inclement weather conditions. Be prepared for chain controls on Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, on U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit and on other Sierra mountain roads Friday through Monday. Caltrans permitted and trained chain installers will out to help drivers put on chains at points along I-80. They can be identified by a reflective sign with their bib number. Caltrans officials also say that the chain installers are not permitted to sell chains. You are advised to carry your own chains and make sure they fit your tires.
When it comes to your tires, Caltrans reminds you to check that they are properly inflated and have a good tread.
Keeping water, blankets, snacks, and a flashlight in your car is also recommended, as is a full tank of gas before you drive into the Sierra.
For more tips on safe winter driving and information about chain controls click here .