Watch CBS News

'You Need To Get The Most Grip That You Can': Chain Controls Greet Drivers As Caltrans Urges Essential-Only Travel In Sierra

AUBURN (CBS13) -- As winter weather moved in again, so did chain controls on Interstate 80.

While both eastbound and westbound remain open on Wednesday, Caltrans is urging only essential travel.

"I was told down the line on the CB radio [that] it's packed down there at Applegate," said David Huerta.

Huerta pulled over along I-80 in Auburn to install his snow chains. His company provides them and he is happy to put them on sooner rather than later to be safe.

"A lot of these cars, 4 wheelers, are not moving over and they got all the lanes over there and they are sliding," he said.

Caltrans encourages truckers to chain up before the backup because there is always a backlog of trucks and some confusion.

"It's supposed to be four chains and then now they say 6, how do you get the other two?" one frustrated woman shouted out a cab window after being turned around given worsening conditions on the pass.

"There is minimum and max on a tractor where you have to chain all the way through to get through, because when you're going over the summit ... your trailer starts drifting and you need to get the most grip that you can," said Huerta.

Experts say chains are also in short supply due to the pandemic and record-setting snow levels.

"You have to be [prepared]," said Randy Rathburn.

Rathburn was installing all eight chains on his double tractor-trailer.

"It's not too hard, you just gotta know what you're doing," he said.

Rathburn's company, Sysco, supplies the chains. He says he is always surprised when other truckers don't have any.

"It's posted on the signs. I guess they just don't care," Rathburn said.

Even some truckers with chains decided not to risk it.

"I've been waiting since [the] day before yesterday. I'm not nervous, I'm careful," Huerta said.

But thousands were a little less cautious, excited to get to the snow after the interstate was shut down for several days.

"We're going to go up to Incline Village and Truckee [to] do some riding on our snowmobile," one man yelled out his truck driving by.

But with tens of thousands still without power, Caltrans warned drivers to stay home to help ease the pressure on first responders.

"Only essential travel is what we're recommending right now," said representative Toks Omishakin.

Chain installers say it's tough to find the chains for trucks, so drivers should bring them along or else it could cost $600-$700.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.