Caltrans Urges Drivers to Avoid Travel to Sierra


District: Headquarters
Contact: Tamie McGowen
Phone: (916) 956-0633

Sacramento — Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin is urging motorists to avoid non-essential mountain travel until weather conditions improve. Caltrans has closed 45 state highways since December 24 due to record snowfall in the Sierra Nevada. While Caltrans has reopened 29 highways – including Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50, the main gateways to Lake Tahoe – roadway conditions remain challenging with extensive delays and chain controls in effect.

“The safety of the traveling public is always Caltrans’ top priority,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Please avoid traveling to the Sierra unless absolutely necessary. If you must travel, make sure you’re prepared.”

Under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) has activated the State Operations Center to monitor storm conditions and coordinate all necessary assistance. Caltrans is coordinating with CalOES, the California Highway Patrol, local law enforcement, the Nevada Department of Transportation and the National Weather Service to respond to changing conditions and keep roadways safe for travel.

In response to the record snowfall, Caltrans has redirected all available crews into the mountains to reopen roadways, bringing operators from as far away as the Bay Area to assist. The department has 1,350 field staff clearing mountain highways, working 24/7 in 12-hour shifts, and has deployed more than 600 snowplows statewide.

Caltrans has recorded more than $22 million in storm damage to state highways during the current winter storm, not including snow and fallen tree removal costs. Hundreds of trees have fallen onto highways, slowing the snow removal process.

Caltrans shared the following safety tips for motorists who must travel to the mountains:

  • Before heading out, check Caltrans QuickMap for the latest road closure and chain control information.
  • Carry chains and be ready for winter driving conditions.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working order by checking your brakes, wipers, antifreeze, heaters, and exhaust systems before you leave.
  • Do not try to go around highway closures by using secondary roads.

And when you’re on the road, please remember:

  • Slow down and Be Work Zone Alert as Caltrans crews, California Highway Patrol officers, and other emergency responders are out trying to help control traffic and clear the roads.
  • “Don’t Crowd the Plow” – tailgating or trying to go around snowplows can result in potentially dangerous situations.
  • Have an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes blankets, water, food, a shovel, gloves, a flashlight, and sand or kitty litter to provide traction in case your vehicle becomes stuck. 
  • Bring cash in case power is unavailable for credit card transactions.
  • Keep your phone charged in case you need it in an emergency.