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Caltrans prepares for massive winter storm

Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 — Caltrans is preparing for one of the strongest storms Californians have seen in years, with more than 1,500 pieces of storm-related equipment and more than 3,000 maintenance employees ready for this week’s major weather shift on track to impact several regions throughout the state.

“Caltrans’ first priority is the safety of the motoring public and we will be working around the clock to keep roads open and clear,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Crews have been busy checking pumping stations, readying equipment and clearing roadside drainage ditches across the state. Generators have been checked and have plenty of fuel for operation throughout the anticipated storms, and crews have been busy filling sand bags.

Poles measuring snow height are in and are being inspected and marked. Chain control facilities are operational and crews will be moved to where they are needed as conditions warrant. Sand sheds are fully stocked for the season, avalanche control measures are checked and operable and response crews are ready.

Traffic management centers throughout the state will be monitoring highway and weather conditions and are ready to dispatch crews and equipment to trouble spots and respond to traffic incidents. Caltrans will activate its changeable message signs and highway advisory radios to communicate to the public about highway conditions.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm is on track to be one of the strongest storms Californians have seen in years and motorists should be prepared for high winds, heavy rain, floods and snow and ice in higher elevations.

Severe weather can be alarming and hazardous for drivers. The best defense is not to venture out on the roads during stormy weather, but if you must drive, use caution, common sense and always be prepared, especially when traveling in high-elevation areas.

Winter weather and road conditions can change rapidly and drivers should have their vehicle winterized by checking its brakes, coolant, tires, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust systems. If possible, have your vehicle checked by a professional mechanic.

All vehicles, including those with four-wheel drive or snow tires, should carry correctly sized chains when traveling during snowy weather. Highway signs will indicate if chains are required. If motorists do not have chains in their possession, they may not be allowed to proceed and risk being cited or fined.

Motorists should check road conditions frequently. For state-operated highways this can be done in a number of ways: visit the Caltrans website at dot.ca.gov or quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ to get road conditions, weekly road reports and press releases by district. Check information through the automated California Highway Information Network by calling (800) 427-7623 (1-800-GAS-ROAD) and following the prompts. Motorists can also tune to the Caltrans Highway Advisory Radio, which broadcasts road conditions on low-frequency radio transmitters located along some mountain highways.

During winter storm conditions, motorists should anticipate unexpected delays and closures. Caltrans strives to reduce the frequency and the length of unplanned closures on state highways. During major storms when traffic flow is heavy, Caltrans may meter traffic to ease congestion.

The following tips will assist you in making your winter driving experience safe and pleasant:

•Allow enough time for your trip.

•Be observant of everything going on around you.

•Remember — black ice is nearly invisible.

•Keep your fuel tank full and your windows clear.

•Drive as conditions permit — slower acceleration, slower speeds and slower braking in winter conditions.

•Reduce speed and leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.

•Use headlights in rainy and snowy weather. During fog, drive with headlights on low beam; never drive with just parking or fog lights. Remember you must have your lights on when using your wipers.

•If you get stuck, stay with your vehicle and wait for help.

            •If visibility diminishes to the point that you no longer feel safe driving, do not stop in the traffic lanes.

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