Snow snarls Interstate 80 |

Snow snarls Interstate 80

Jenny Goldsmith/Sierra SunTruck drivers pull over to put on chains before crawling over Donner Summit on Interstate 80 Friday. Over 350 Caltrans employees were working to keep the Interstate open during the storm.

Winter weather enthusiasts greeted the Tahoe-Truckee area’s first major storm of the season with open arms, while California Highway Patrol officers and Caltrans crews struggled to keep traffic crawling on Interstate 80 over Donner Summit.

By 10 a.m. Friday, weather observers reported 14 inches of snow in the Truckee area, which caused numerous spin-outs and several accidents along the 80 corridor.

“We’re keeping busy,” said Truckee-based CHP Officer Steve Skeen. “Our biggest challenge is keeping [Interstate] 80 open.”

Chain controls were lifted on Interstate 80 and most area highways by late afternoon.

Only one major accident was reported, a collision between a big-rig and a passenger vehicle on the interstate’s westbound lanes east of Hirschdale Road, resulting in minor injuries, Skeen said.

“We’ve got extra officers on today,” he said. “We’re mostly working with a lot of solo vehicles stuck in shoulders along 80.”

From Witmore to the state line, between eight and 10 minor accidents occurred, mostly at Donner Summit, Caltrans spokeswoman Shelly Chernicki said Friday afternoon.

Caltrans prepared for the weather conditions by increasing staff from the typical 40 workers to 350 personnel, and by using all equipment such as plows, sanders and chain-control checks.

“Our biggest challenge is the volume of traffic because we have to keep 80 open for motorists, but we also have to do our job,” Chernicki said.

Chains or snow tires were required on all mountain passes, including Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, U.S. 50 over Echo Summit, Highway 88, the Mount Rose Highway southwest of Reno, and a 100-mile stretch of U.S. 395 from Bridgeport, Calif., north to the Reno city limits.

Snow began falling Thursday afternoon and continued for the next 24 hours.

The winter storm warning expired at 11 a.m. for the Lake Tahoe region, and Chernicki said the highway department expects high volumes of traffic all weekend from skiers and snowboarders eager to hit the slopes.

The snowy conditions caused all schools in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to start classes two hours late on Friday.

Additionally, Glenshire Elementary School and Donner Trail School closed for the day due to power outages, but both are scheduled to resume on Monday.

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