A long winter for road crews

Hannah Jones

With the snow disappearing in populated areas around North Lake Tahoe, road maintenance crews can finally take a breath.

The 2019 snow pack through February was the third highest in 22 years behind the snow pack from the 2017 storms, according to a Placer County staff report.

“What that amounted to was a lot of work on the road maintenance division’s behalf,” said Kevin Taber, roads division manager for Placer County.

“Not only with snow removal but with flood response down below,” he added.

According to Taber, crews worked continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 21 days straight between Feb. 2 to the 23. After a one day break they worked non-stop again for 13 days. Over three pay periods during the span of 42 days, starting on Jan. 19, maintenance crews worked a total of 6,981 overtime hours, 166 hours per day.

“We worked a tremendous amount of hours trying to keep the roads open. Our snow removal crews were tested at times and I think they came out pretty good,” said Taber.

During January and February, over 58,000 gallons of fuel was purchased in Tahoe and Colfax maintenance yards, with over 28,000 gallons of fuel purchased just in Tahoe during February. At times Taber said they almost ran out of fuel.

“It was dicey at times with the interstate being closed. We became perilously close to running out of fuel in Lake Tahoe,” he said.

Placer County has around 1,000 miles of roadways that have to be maintenance. Of those roads, 219 miles are in the Tahoe area and require extensive snow removal during the winter. With a colder storm that brings snowfall down to 3,000 feet, this adds another 91 miles of road to plow.

Typically crews will clear the roads with snow plows that can travel around 13 miles per hour. With high intensity storms Taber said it was hard to keep up with the heavy snow fall forcing crews to use snow blowers to clear the roads which move at three to four miles per hour. “When we had that much snowfall it took three to four times the amount of time to get a road open,” he said.

“Even though we didn’t have a record breaking season, the intensity on a single storm can really put you on your heels,” he said.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or

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