Storm, driving a dangerous mix
Weather can bring out the worst in drivers, especially those who are skittish during snow storms or those who have been drinking.
Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Chuck Allen warns that extra care is needed when driving in snow, and extra special care is needed on New Year’s Eve.
Snow started falling in Carson Valley at about 6 a.m. Tuesday after a light rain fell during the night and more snow was falling later in the day.
A winter storm watch is in effect in the Sierra from late tonight until Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Reno. This was due to two low-pressure systems that are expected to move across the region over the next several days.
The first system came off the California coast, and was expected to bring light to moderate snow to the Sierra Tuesday afternoon and evening.
The second system, from the Gulf of Alaska, is stronger and probably will affect New Year’s holiday driving.
Heavy snow is expected to begin tonight and last on and off throughout the weekend, according to National Weather Service reports.
“I understand there’s a bigger storm coming in. You couple that with New Year’s Eve. We’ve got to be safe out there,” said Allen.
Snow that fell Monday night resulted in a six-car pileup and several cars that swerved off the road, forcing the closure of Highway 207 – Kingsbury Grade – for nearly two hours.
No major injuries were reported at the Kingsbury Grade accidents, according to a Nevada Highway Patrol dispatcher. However, traffic was backed up on both sides of the grade as tow trucks responded to Buchanan Street, about two miles from the top of Daggett Summit. The six-car accident happened at about 6:45 p.m. as snow began accumulating on the road.
The highway was reopened at about 8:30 p.m.
Allen said with 65,000 people expected to party at Stateline on Friday night, the highway patrol will be out in full force.
Highway 50 closes in front of Stateline casinos at about 9 p.m. and stays closed until about 1:30-2 a.m., Allen said. A total of 25 uniformed highway patrolmen will be on foot patrol that night, as well as the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and South Lake Tahoe Police, he said.
Even with snow predictions ranging from 4-6 inches in the Tahoe Basin and 6-10 inches in the mountains through this morning, plus 2-4 feet of new snow through Friday, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Tom Mezzetta said he doesn’t expect to see a decrease in revelers coming into South Lake Tahoe.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen (the weather) prevent people, unless the highway is closed,” he said.
“The cold and wet weather may make them stay inside more, but it hasn’t prevented them from coming.”
One word of advice Allen said he tells people on holidays is to stay out of the fast lane when driving on a four-lane highway.
“People driving drunk tend to drive the wrong way in the fast lane,” he said. “It happens. It will keep happening.”
The Nevada Highway Patrol spokesperson also had these tips for motorists who are out on New Year’s Eve, especially during inclement weather:
— Keep a safe following distance.
— Choose a designated driver ahead of time when going out partying.
— Consider taking a taxi or bus to your destination and back.
— Check your windshield wiper blades and washer fluids before leaving.
— Limit distractions while driving, such as cell phones.
— Pull to the side of the highway and turn on emergency lights when in trouble.
— Call *NHP from your cell phone to reach a highway patrol dispatcher to report when you or others may need assistance.
“If we’ve had a storm, think about whether you want to travel to the lake,” Allen said.
— Jo Rafferty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 213.