Storm brings road, driving problems in its path
Just because an SUV has four-wheel drive doesn’t mean it won’t slide off the road and take out a traffic light.
Thursday morning, as the 13 inches of snow that fell at South Shore turned roads into layers of ice and slick slush, a motorist flattened and mangled a $5,000 traffic pole.
At 1 p.m., the light, damaged and knocked flat into a pile of fresh snow, changed from green to yellow to red as if it were still helping direct the flow of traffic.
The 18-foot pole toppled around 10:30 a.m., right next to The Bottle Shop at U. S. Highway 50 and Pioneer Trail. The woman’s SUV came to rest partially on top of the of the traffic light, forcing police to call the power company to make sure no live wires had been exposed.
They found no dangerous wires so she was able to drive from the scene with only a dent in her right rear passenger door. A spokeswoman from California Department of Transportation said that traffic lights are not equipped with break-away bolts, like many street light poles are, so it was the force of the sliding vehicle that dislodged the pole.
“The lady’s wheels just locked up and she began to slide. She was sideways,” said Jim Christensen, employee of The Bottle Shop. “It sure shut down my business, with the cop’s flashing lights and the firetruck, people probably thought there was something wrong with the store.”
South Lake Tahoe Police Sgt. Les Scott said the driver may have to pay for the damage to the pole. “Caltrans maintains it,” he said. “If the state determines she was at fault they could bill her.”
Utility poles aside, Wednesday night’s snowstorm produced a handful of fender benders, none of which resulted in serious injuries. A slick hill, near where Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Julie Lane meet, caused problems for a another vehicle with four-wheel drive. The driver went into a slide even though he told police he was rolling down the hill slowly. It hit a stopped STAGE bus, which had tire chains on, then ricocheted into another car also struggling to keep its grip on the road. Police said damage to the three vehicles was minor.
“This was a particularly wet snowstorm,” said Sgt. Rick Canale. “Because of cold conditions it’s very icy, driver’s should take caution and give themselves a lot of time and room to stop.”
With the snow starting to fall late in the afternoon Wednesday, Nevada Department of Transportation required four-wheel drive or chains for all vehicles on Kingsbury Grade by 5 p.m. That restriction was lifted Thursday at 11 a.m.
Emerald Bay Road was closed Wednesday night but reopened 9 a.m. Thursday. State Route 88 toward Kirkwood Mountain Resort required chains or four-wheel drive all day Thursday.
“We just had two (traffic collisions) about a half an hour ago,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Earl Boyd, at 2:30 p.m. “They were property damage only. One was in Alpine County near Woodfords’ junction, the other was at (U. S. Highway ) 50 and Elks Club Road.”
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