Sunday, February 15, 2009

Snow in the Mountains Means a Bad Day for Truckers

Well, Northern California is getting snow in the mountains this weekend. I've talked to my trucker friend a few times this weekend and he's not a "happy camper". If you take a look at the image to the left (A screenshot of the CalTrans Traveler Information page), you'll see that they are saying that I80 Westbound is closed to trucks. Well, that doesn't mean my friend can sit back and wait it out. For the simple reason that he's hauling the U.S. Mail, which means he doesn't stop, even if they block all the other trucks. He has to put chains on and run it anyway, he has to deal with the folks in cars, SUV's and pickups doing stupid things on the highway in front of him. For instance, this morning he had a guy in a SUV pass him and then suddenly change lanes and slow down right in front of my friend's truck. It's a good thing my friend was going slow (due to having max chains on his truck) because he was able to slow fast enough to not hit the idiot in the SUV.

Anyway, it's been a few hours since I heard anything from my trucker friend, so I figured I'd check out the traffic cams up on the hill. It looks nasty up there. I started from the Nevada end and worked my way "down the hill" with the cams. Take a look at the screenshot to the left. That is at the Truckee Scales. Normally, you can see the hills in the distance. Not today! Too much snow falling. The wind is blowing pretty good up there too, when you watch this camera, it really sways with the movement of the pole that the camera is on.

The next camera in line isn't working this afternoon. It's at the Ag Station on the Westbound side of the highway. Thats where you have to stop and tell them where you're coming from and what kind of agricultural products you're carrying when you're coming into California.

After you pass the Ag Station, you get into the city of Truckee. So the next camera is at the junction of I80 and Highway 89 which is in Truckee. Lots of snow, huh? If you're watching the camera live, you can really see the snow blowing past the lens of the camera!

I am glad I'm not up there in that mess. I'm sitting here in the comfort of my living room, listening to the rain and wind outside. I feel sorry for the truckers that have to travel in that stuff up on the mountains during storms like the one we're having today! I'm also very thankful that when I drove trucks way back when, I drove for a company that had a "no chain" policy for the cross-country drivers. We carried the chains, but the company wanted us to find a spot to wait out the chain controls rather than put them on and run. My partner and I spent a lot of time in truckstops waiting for weather conditions to improve back then.

The next view is a bit further west at Kingvale. The traffic on the lower section of the road is going westbound. You can barely see the upper/Eastbound side through the snow flying. Although, if you look close right next to the "E" in Kingvale, you'll see the taillights of a car headed east. I was almost tempted to give my trucker friend a call to see where he was when I saw that white truck headed west. I decided not to distract him though, so I have no clue where he is on the hill.

Are you glad that you are sitting in the warmth of your home looking at these pictures on your computer instead of having to drive in that lovely white stuff? lol..

Ok, the next camera is the one at Whitmore Grade. This one puzzled me for a long time because I couldn't quite figure out where the camera was. In a previous post on this blog, I posted a map or two trying to show where it is. I wish Caltrans had a camera on the Eastbound side as well, but I'm guessing that this location is where a camera is needed since I've seen a number of spinouts and such when I'm watching it.

Anyway, you can see all the traffic trying to make it back down into the Sacramento Valley. And all the snow blowing around. No spinouts yet, but I'm sure there will be one or two before the day is over.

This is the last screenshot for today. It's at Crystal Springs and I added it in because of the fellow at the back of the truck over there on the left. I watched the poor guy putting the chains on the wheels of his truck. And watched a few idiots in cars that seemed to try to get as close to him as they could. Dummies...

One of the things that struck me as I watched the cameras today was that I saw very few plows or sand trucks running. My trucker friend's favorite rant about Caltrans is the lack of plows running down the road. He says that he sees more plows and sand trucks sitting alongside the road than he sees on the highway itself. What the heck are those guys doing? Napping?


Steven said...

I have been watching over the weekend as well. Good clean fun on the internet!

I understand that we'll see much the same condition on the hill today.

My own memory; I used to have to drive from Janesville to Reno to Sacramento and back every weekend. One Sunday evening, we were stopped at Verdi to put chains on. It took us 11 hours from that point before we rolled into Sacto.

Anakerie said...

Hi Steven... My trucker friend finally got home last night, rather late.. His log book needs his days off now.. He ran completely out of hours, so it's good that he's got 3 days off now.

I know what you mean about driving down the hill on chains. Sloooow going, for sure....