By Debra Moore
The California Highway Patrol has been busier than usual this holiday season. Public Information Officer Seth Preston said it was the “perfect storm” — due to the severity of the weather combined with holiday travel.
During the period from Dec. 24-29, dispatch fielded 296 calls related to motorists, whether it be accidents or vehicles stuck in the snow. Preston said some of the calls pertained to the same incidents, but the volume was far beyond what is typical. He estimated that on an average day, there are 20 to 30 calls. Calls usually increase during bad weather events, though Preston said that isn’t always the case, because traffic is often lighter. That wasn’t the case over the Christmas holiday as more people were on the road.
CHP officers, as well as Sheriff department personnel across the north state called for people to stay off the roads, but for a multitude of reasons, motorists persisted on trying to reach their destinations. In Plumas County and elsewhere that resulted in vehicles becoming trapped on roads that are closed for the winter. The CHP joined Search and Rescue and sheriff’s personnel in responding to those areas.
But it just wasn’t closed roads that were causing problems for motorists. Preston said that there were vehicles stuck in the Sierra Valley for example. In one incident on A-24 even a snow plow became stuck and had to be hauled out by a grader. Preston said the Sierra Valley is still treacherous with icy conditions due to snow-packed roadways.
When the CHP arrives at the scene of a stuck vehicle, officers do what they can to provide assistance. “I’ve shoveled vehicles out of a snow bank,” Preston said. Sometimes though a tow service or Caltrans is needed to assist.
In addition to stuck vehicles, Preston said there have been issues with motorists driving around with snow on their rooftops. That snow can become dislodged and slide down the windshield obscuring the motorist’s view; and it can also slide off and fly into the windshield of another vehicle, sometimes with fatal results.
There are many tips to drive safely in snowy weather. Preston encourages motorists to access some important information contained on the CHP website. The link is below.