MARYSVILLE – Caltrans is alerting motorists traveling in the Sierra foothills, mountain areas or over the Donner or Echo Summits to be prepared for significant travel delays resulting from the intense storm expected to arrive early Saturday morning and continue through Wednesday. Flooded roadways, mountain area chain controls, downed trees and powerlines are expected impacts from the storm.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Flood Watch for Northern California from Saturday, January 7 through Wednesday, January 11. Up to 14 inches of rain is forecast for the Sierra areas and flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, urban areas and farmland is likely. Additionally, a Winter Weather Advisory for the west slope of the northern Sierra Mountains has also been issued by the NWS for Saturday, January 7 from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. with snow levels beginning as low as 2,000 feet but rising throughout the day, leaving up to 2 feet of snow in the higher elevations before turning to rain on Sunday.
Windy conditions are also forecast, so low-visibility, whiteout conditions on mountain roadways may occur. Chain controls over Donner and Echo Summits (Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50) as well as other higher elevation roadways should be anticipated. Motorists are required to carry chains even if driving a four- or all-wheel drive vehicle with mud + snow rated tires.
Be advised that motorists using cable (ladder) chains may be turned around on Highway 267 at the Northstar and Kings Beach chain control checkpoints. Although cable chains are legal traction devices, they’ve proven to be ineffective when attempting to drive over Brockway Summit during heavy snow storms. Motorists can use Highway 89 as an alternate route. Access to the Northstar resort area is open for motorists traveling from the Truckee area.
Motorists traveling on U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit may be held intermittently during the storm for avalanche control. Highway 89 over Emerald Bay is currently closed due to avalanche hazards. Traffic on Interstate 80 may also be held intermittently to clear traffic incidents or if low-visibility conditions occur.
Caltrans’ snow removal crews will be working throughout the storm on summit passes and impacted Caltrans roadways. Caltrans permitted and trained chain installers on Interstate 80 can be identified by a reflective sign with their bib number. Motorists are encouraged to use caution in chain installation/removal areas where pedestrians are present and to not crowd snow removal equipment, passing only when the whole roadway ahead is visible.
Caltrans crews in the Sierra foothills will be monitoring roadway drainage systems and motorists are advised that detours resulting from flooded roadways should be anticipated. Motorists are instructed to not enter flooded roadways as the water may be hiding the fact that the roadway’s pavement has washed away. Additional NWS flood prepareness information for the upcoming storm can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/Z76HALXauzM .
Severe weather may slow motorists, resulting in roadway congestion. Wet and slippery roadways reduce tire traction, especially at high vehicle speeds. Hydroplaning can result in loss of driver control. If travel cannot be postponed, motorists are encouraged to slow down, plan ahead and follow the winter driving tips at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/cttravel/winter.html.
Motorists are urged to be “Be Work Zone Alert” and to “Slow for the Cone Zone.” Caltrans will issue updates on Twitter @D3PIO and on Facebook at CaltransDistrict 3.