Winter not going down without a fight

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Storm closes Interstate 80; steam-driven rotary snowplow rides in on rails Travel over Donner Summit came to a complete halt for nearly 24 hours last week. Interstate 80 was closed Thursday after a blizzard blew across Donner Summit. Caltrans crews shut down westbound lanes around 12:30 p.m. and the eastbound lanes at 2 p.m. Truckee California Highway Patrol Officer Tony Prisco said whiteout conditions combined with heavy accumulations of snow on the road were causing vehicle spinouts and loss of traction. Heavy snowfall also made it unsafe for trains to move across the summit. By Friday, Southern Pacific had brought a “working” steam-driven rotary snowplow up the hill to clear the westbound and eastbound tracks. Cal Herman, spokeswoman for Caltrans, said Friday that record snowfall kept a crew of about 200 employees and 135 pieces of equipment working around the clock. “I can tell you that we’ve had a record amount of snow and we are going into record levels,” Herman said. The last record set was in the early 1950s, when 700 inches of snow was reported at Castle Rock, Herman reported. Westbound traffic on Interstate 80 started to flow just before noon on Friday, while eastbound lanes remained closed until shortly after 2 p.m. The heavy rainfall saturated the ground, topping trees into power lines, reported PG&E spokesman Denny Boyle. Crews worked throughout the weekend restoring power to 848 customers, the majority in southern Nevada County, reported Boyle. Only 24 customers along Interstate 80 from Alta to Gold Run remained without power on Tuesday. Boyle expected their power would be restored Tuesday afternoon. “We definitely understand the frustration of customers in the harder-hit areas,” Boyle said. However, the highway closure prevented crews from getting heavy equipment up the hill to begin working on downed lines. In Weimar, crews worked throughout the night to clean up a mess left when a 75-foot pine tree fell onto power lines on Canyon Way and Live Oak. After clearing the road on Thursday afternoon, the crews returned at 4 a.m. on Friday to replace the broken poles and repair the damaged power lines. — Gloria Beverage, Paula Mooney, Gus Thomson and Jenifer Gee contributed to this report.