TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Locals aren’t the only ones hoping for a white winter this year for Truckee and Lake Tahoe.
Caltrans is, too.
“Hopefully we’ll have a big winter, because once we do, it brings resources for us now, it brings resources for us later,” said Dave Wood, Caltrans’ superintendent for Gold Country, in District 3. “The last two winters, as dry as they have been, we’re going to need that (big winter this year) to progress at the pace we have been.”
Last winter, 183 inches of snow fell at 6,200 feet, and 326 inches at 8,200 feet, according to Squaw Valley’s snowfall tracker. In 2011-12, 182.5 inches and 355 inches fell, respectively. Average snowfall for the Truckee/Tahoe region is roughly 430 inches.
“When we don’t have (a big winter), it can cause equipment to move around, and it may be a challenge for us the following year when the equipment has moved and the snow has come back,” Wood said.
Despite the last strong winter being in 2010-11 — with 510 inches of snowfall at 6,200 feet and 810 inches at 8,200 feet — Wood said area snow removal equipment and staffing levels will remain the same this year as in years past.
In anticipation for this weekend’s storm, Caltrans has 180 staff members and 134 pieces of equipment ready to clear Interstate 80, said Caltrans spokesperson Rochelle Jenkins.
A new piece of equipment Wood is particularly excited about is a tow plow, which can clear two lanes with a single pass.
“It’s like being able to get twice as much work out of one truck and one operator,” he said.
The tow plow will be used exclusively on Interstate 80, which is important to keep cleared as it is a major commerce artery, Wood said.
Approximately, $4.7 million of commerce travels on I-80 at Donner Summit every hour, Jenkins said.
“In order to safely respond, we have to have what’s been determined to be an adequate amount of people and equipment,” Wood said, tying into Caltrans’ goal of getting drivers to their destinations safely.
Yet, safety is a two-way street. When driving in winter conditions, Wood advises motorists go the speed limit or slower, when needed; be prepared; and know what conditions to expect.
Caltrans is responsible for the maintenance of I-80 and state roads, including highways 267, 89 and 28 at Truckee/Tahoe.