See: CHP storm driving tips at bottom of this article

Storm delivers winter wallop

Throwing and snowing
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
Welcome to winter weather. The area’s first major snowstorm of the season closed schools and slickened Placer County roads Monday. While Auburn experienced a few rogue flakes among the raindrops, upper-elevation areas saw heavy snowfalls Sunday and Monday. With spinouts and heavy snowfall in the Sierra, eastbound traffic was stopped at Applegate at about noon for an indefinite road closure. But by early afternoon, chain requirements were put in place for all vehicles and eastbound trucks were being screened at Applegate, about 8 miles east of Auburn. The Placer Union School District closed both Foresthill and Colfax high schools Monday because of snow. The list of other schools shut down by the storm included Colfax Elementary, Foresthill Elementary, Foresthill Middle School, Sierra Hills School and Weimar Hills School. Fred Adam, Placer Hills Union School District superintendent, said that while Sierra Hills School in central Meadow Vista was seeing the inch of snow it had accumulated Monday morning melting away by 11 a.m., Weimar Hills School higher up had 6 inches. "We were worrying about Applegate on up," Adam said. Placer Hills will take a "wait-and-see" approach as it considers its options for Tuesday, he said. "The weather keeps changing," Adam said. "An hour ago, it was snowing and now the sun is trying to peek through." Martin Ward, Mid-Placer Public School Transportation Agency CEO, said that with buses scheduled to start out from Auburn to pick up students as far into the mountains as Blue Canyon, decisions to close schools were made early. Buses head to the farthermost pickup points just before 5 a.m. With a 60 percent chance of snow Tuesday, Ward said Mid-Placer is anticipating a full schedule for its busses. "But the weather can change," Ward said. Foresthill Garage & Towing co-owner Bob Adams said he could see about 8 inches of snow in the parking lot outside his Foresthill business at 9 a.m. Monday – with the snow still coming down. Foresthill, at 3,100 feet elevation, started to see snow sticking Sunday evening. Adams said the storm kept up overnight, leaving roads – including Foresthill Road between Auburn and the mountain community – slick and slippery. Debbie Milsaps of Foresthill Garage & Towing's towing service, said the school closures helped keep cars off the road in the morning. Tow-truck drivers assisted one driver whose vehicle left the road in the Todd Valley subdivision and another on Thomas Street, she said. -------------------------------------- Prepare ahead for winter driving: CHP By Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer Spinouts and traffic delays during Sierra storms are about as common as the small community of satellite television trucks at Blue Canyon when the snow starts to fall. The California Highway Patrol’s Gold Run office is calling on motorists to be prepared for changing driving conditions and delays when they travel to the ski slopes or over the Donner Summit. Dress appropriately and make sure your vehicle is winterized, is the advice given by Lt. John Arrabit, Gold Run office commander. Winterizing a vehicle includes changing windshield wiper blades, having proper levels of anti-freeze in the radiator, topping off windshield wiper fluid, and having chains and tires to meet chain-control requirements. With the popularity of GPS systems in vehicles, some drivers may risk traveling on side roads when they run into heavy or stopped traffic. Arrabit said, however, that the global positioning system may not indicate if the roads are paved, drivable or plowed. Staying on the highway is the recommended route. Travelers with small children should have plenty of water, snacks and activities to keep them occupied. Books, games and portable DVD players work well keeping children entertained, Arrabit said. Also important is planning your route and knowing what services are available along the way. One important reminder for over-the-summit drivers is the current closure of the Gold Run rest area along Interstate 80. The rest area is being renovated. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at