Avalanche Control Crews Keep Traffic Flowing and Travelers Safe

This winter the California Sierras saw massive amounts of snow thanks to recent storms. The Lake Tahoe area and Highway 50 was especially impacted by many feet of snow and Caltrans was ready with operations to keep traffic moving and travelers safe.

With the increase in snow came an increase in travelers on the highways out to take advantage of the fresh powder on the mountains. We often travel highways all year round not knowing exactly what is taking place behind the scenes to help us get to our destination safely. This years storms had Caltrans hard at work around the clock to prevent avalanches from impacting Highway 50 and its motorists.

The Caltrans avalanche control crew is the team that gets the job done when it comes to getting ahead of avalanche risk that may impact the highway. These crews are highly skilled and specially trained to do the important and dangerous work of avalanche control on the mountains. Crews use pre-identified known avalanche trigger points and explosives to reduce and eliminate avalanche risk.  Safety of the public on the highway is a priority as is team safety during avalanche control missions. Avalanche control crews hold safety briefings before they head out on a mission and carry important supplies with them.



While Caltrans is hard at work to keep us safe on the roads, there are steps we can do to prepare ourselves and our vehicle before we get on the road. Here are some tips from Caltrans to keep in mind before you do any winter driving:

  • Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust system are in top condition.
  • Check your antifreeze and be ready for colder temperatures.
  • Check your tires. Make sure they are properly inflated and the tread is in good condition. Always carry chains. Make sure they are the proper size for your tires and are in working order. You might want to take along a flashlight and chain repair links. Chains must be installed on the drive wheels. Make sure you know if your vehicle is front or rear wheel drive.
  • Other suggested items to carry in your car are an ice scraper or commercial de-icer, a broom for brushing snow off your car, a shovel to free you car if it is “snowed in”, sand or burlap for traction if your wheels should become mired in snow and an old towel to clean your hands.
  • It is also a good idea to take along water, food, warm blankets and extra clothing. A lengthy delay will make you glad you have them.
  • Weather conditions may warrant detouring traffic from the main roadway. It is strongly suggested that drivers always keep an updated map containing the areas of travel.
  • If you have a cellular telephone, pre-load the¬†Caltrans Highway Information Network (CHIN)phone number:¬†427.7623for convenient, updated road conditions.
  • Put an extra car key in you pocket. A number of motorists have locked themselves out of their cars when putting on chains and at ski areas.

Being prepared for winter weather and the risk you may be exposed to Рlike an avalanche, can increase your chances of survival. Talk to your friends and family about preparedness and safety before you hit the roads.

Want more information?

Visit the Cal OES Winter Storm Prep page for more tips and resources at www.caloes.ca.gov/wintertsormprep.

Visit Caltrans at www.dot.ca.gov for information about highways, road conditions, live traffic cameras and more.


Monica Vargas

Monica is an Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). She has been involved in the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Valley Fire, Butte Fire, historic drought, Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, 2017 winter storms, North Bay Fires, Camp Fire, Ridgecrest Earthquake, 2020 Puerto Rico earthquake EMAC PIO, 2020 fire siege and the COVID-19 pandemic. She previously served Cal OES as an analyst in the executive, international affairs and technology offices.

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