Driving to Tahoe in the blizzard? Think again

Blizzard conditions on Friday morning were picking up en route to the Sierra, prompting the California Highway Patrol to beg drivers: Don't make the trip if you don't have to. 

Snow plow drivers were working overtime on Interstate 80 at Blue Canyon near Emigrant Gap in Placer County, moving huge mounds of white stuff out of the way. 

Still, big semi-trucks were pulled over and drivers were waiting on the side of the road roughly 30 miles from Truckee because it was too unsafe to go any further without chains. 

Antonio Orozco runs a Shell Gas Station off the Nyack exit. He says the current snowfall is just the tip of the iceberg. 

"Usually, the folks who are unprepared, they're the ones having a hard time," said Antonio Orozco, a gas station manager at Blue Canyon near Emigrant Gap. "They get warned, but they still come up. A lot of truckers come up, sitting not wanting to do anything because they want to wait until the storm is over. They don't realize it'll be three days, then they get buried out there."

Some drivers used the gas station to rest and put chains on their cars.

Allison Irons from Reno needed to cross Donner Summit and go to Stockton. 


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"It wasn't too bad," she said about 10 a.m. "I've seen worse. But for someone who hasn't driven in the snow, it's really not the best to go through." 

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol said conditions on Friday morning were at an R-2 level, meaning chains are required for all big rig trucks and most cars, unless they have snow tires with four-wheel drive.

People said the snowstorm on Friday wasn't as bad as the weather last year.

But experts said last year saw a series of storms vs. this year's single system, expected to last through Sunday. 

"We saw many back-to-back moderate to large storms," said UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab Director Andrew Schwartz. "We were seeing a succession of them occur and a lot of snow build up because of that, whereas this specific storm is expected to have high snowfall rates. If it pans out, it could give us one of the top 10 snowiest days we've seen in the snow lab going back to the 1970s."