Snowed in and low on fuel, District 1 finds a way



State Route 299 is rendered passable after a recent storm thanks to Caltrans' snow-plowing efforts in District 1.

District 1 photograph

By Meriah Miracle
District 1 public information officer

Humboldt County declared a local emergency in late December following an unusually severe snowstorm that led to road closures and power outages, including an outage at the public safety radio vault maintained by Caltrans District 1 at the top of Horse Mountain off State Route 299.

The facility reverted to a backup generator on Dec. 26 to power emergency communications infrastructure that serves Caltrans, CalFire, the U.S. Forest Service, California Highway Patrol as well as other agencies. By New Year’s Eve, the generator was running low on propane, and the road up the mountain was impassable.

This level of snowfall is uncommon for the area, so District 1 doesn’t maintain a full complement of snow-removal equipment. Initial efforts to clear the road with equipment on hand were unsuccessful.

That’s when Caltrans District 2 and Humboldt County Public Works Roads Division stepped up to assist. District 2 provided a snow blower and crew to operate it, and Humboldt County Public Works helped clear the road, giving District 1 crews access to refuel the generator before the next round of storms.

“This site is critical for keeping public safety communications up and running for the North Coast, including all of Del Norte County and much of northern Humboldt County,” said Brian M. Smith, California Office of Emergency Services public safety communications Area 1 supervisor.

“Losing power or running out of propane in our vault is not an option,” District 1 Maintenance Manager Aaron Holcomb added. “Big thank you to everyone who made this happen especially District 2 for loaning us the snow blower and the County of Humboldt for clearing and maintaining the road to the vault.”