I-80 closed until midnight – severe winter weather impacts mountain travelers

MARYSVILLE January 4, 2017 – Caltrans District 3 is alerting motorists traveling to the Sierra mountains, particularly those traveling on Interstate 80 (I-80) over Donner Summit or U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit, to be prepared for significant travel delays. Cold temperatures, heavy snowfall and windy conditions are forecast to continue through Thursday, January 5.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting up to two feet of snow for summit passes and continued snowfall for mountain and Lake Tahoe areas. High wind speeds are expected to decrease but low-visibility, whiteout conditions may occur. Numerous incidents occuring the afternoon of January 4 forced the 2:25 p.m. closure of eastbound I-80 at Colfax and, because traffic backlogs prevented free movement of Caltrans snow removal equipment on both directions of the highway, westbound I-80 was closed at Truckee at 4:14 p.m.  Caltrans is anticipating incident clean-up and snow removal activities will allow re-opening by midnight Wednesday, January 4.

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.

U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit is open, but traffic may be held intermittently during the storm for avalanche control. Highway 89 over Emerald Bay was closed early Wednesday morning due to avalanche hazards. It will remain closed indefinitely until there’s a break in the weather and the snow and fallen debris can be cleared. Traffic on Interstate 80 may also be held intermittently to clear traffic incidents or if low-visibility conditions reoccur.

Caltrans’ snow removal crews continue working to clear 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. Caltrans encourages motorists to slow down and move over whenever flashing lights are observed on the region’s roadways.

Motorists are encouraged to plan ahead by following the winter driving tips listed at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/cttravel/winter.html:

  • Check out Caltrans’ “QuickMap” for current road conditions and chain requirements at http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov. A mobile version is also available.
  • Motorists also can use the California Highway Information Network automated phone service by calling 1-800-427-ROAD (7623).
  • Motorists can see real-time conditions before they hit the road by using our map of traffic cameras available for District 3 and statewide.
  • For Interstate 80 and Highway 50 updates, follow Caltrans District 3 on Twitter and Facebook to receive the latest information about current roadway conditions.
  • For forecast information, visit the National Weather Service website.

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