First winter storm expected to slow Sierra travel, block roads

Snow accumulates Friday afternoon on the edges of Interstate 80 at Castle Peak.
Snow accumulates Friday afternoon on the edges of Interstate 80 at Castle Peak.

Traffic is expected to back up throughout inland Northern California as the first storm of the winter touches down this weekend.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the greater Lake Tahoe area, with 1 to 2 feet of snow expected in most places above 6,000 feet by Monday evening. Snow began falling on freeways Friday morning around the Sierra, though chains were not initially required in most areas.

As of 6:45 p.m. Friday, trucks traveling on Interstate 80 needed chains to travel over the summit. Eastbound trucks were being screened at Applegate and westbound trucks, at Overland Trail Road in Truckee, according to the Caltrans website.

For motorists traveling between the Sacramento area and South Lake Tahoe on Friday evening, Caltrans reported that westbound traffic on Highway 50 was reduced to one lane from one mile west of Riverton at Bridal Veil Falls Road to three miles east of Pollock Pines due to a slip-out.

Snow has also closed Highway 89 from Lassen National Park’s southern boundary to the Highway 44/Lassen Loop junction, as well as Highway 108 from 26 miles east of Strawberry to Sonora Pass.

More chain requirements are expected to be put in place along I-80 and Highway 50 as the snow level drops from 6,500 feet on Friday to 5,500 on Saturday, said Eric Kurth, weather service meteorologist.

In the Sacramento-area, only traces of rain had fallen as of 6:45 p.m. Friday, said Cory Mueller, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Most of the rain from this storm is expected to occurr overnight and Saturday morning, he said.

Measurable amounts were reported to the north, with 0.03 inches recorded in Yuba City and .0.15 inches in Oroville, Mueller said.

Between 0.40 inches and 0.80 inches were reported in some areas of Placer County. A mixture of rain and snow was falling around the 6,000-foot elevation, including the Blue Canyon area, which had recorded 0.80 inches, Mueller said.

Forecasters are predicting a weak La Niña, though that hasn’t proven to be a consistent indicator of rainfall in years past. Kurth noted October 2017 was considerably drier than last year, when Sacramento got the 12th-most rain in recorded monthly history, but acknowledged the region’s wettest months tend to be December and January.

“It’s still quite early, but it’s certainly starting different than last year.”

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel

Winter weather travel tips

Caltrans is recommending drivers proceed cautiously on open roads and “winter-ize” vehicles using the following tips:

▪ Check tire pressure and tread depth to minimize sliding and/or hydroplaning.

▪ Replace the wiper blades and fill the windshield wiper fluid reservoir; be sure to use a winter formula to help de-ice windshields.

▪ If traveling to higher elevations, carry tire chains correctly sized for your tires and in good working order, and practice installing chains before needing to use them.

▪ Find chain control information at .

▪ Have a full tank of fuel before traveling.

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