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CHP issues warning to drivers: stay off Sierra Nevada roads during this snowstorm

CHP to drivers: stay off Sierra roads during this storm
CHP to drivers: stay off Sierra roads during this storm 04:39

TRUCKEE -- With feet of snow expected to fall over the next few days, California Highway Patrol officers have their hands full when it comes to keeping drivers safe.

KPIX got the chance to ride along with an officer Thursday to see how the CHP prepares for a big storm like this.

Officer Chris Patton knows the summit area of Interstate 80 like the back of his hand. He's been with the CHP in Truckee for 17 years and has seen his fair share of big winter storms. That's why he's taking this weekend's storm seriously.

"We're on high alert right now, basically. Like, this storm is coming. It's on the verge. It's on the other side of the hill coming this way," said Officer Patton said.

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Patton is one of hundreds of officers who will be patrolling the roads during the storm, doing his best to keep drivers safe and moving.

"If we're not getting any calls we're constantly driving this freeway and, when we see a person stuck, we assist them. I mean I've had luggage packed in this patrol car and people stuffed in here. We get them off the hill. We get them to safety," Officer Patton said.

With storms like this, Officer Patton says road conditions can change rapidly. He says it's not uncommon for drivers to get stuck or slide off the road.

"Like right now, snow's blowing and you know I can't see the car in front of me, right? If there is a car, you have to be patient and you have to respect the weather and what's going on," officer Patton said.

Patton says the best thing people can do is not drive when the weather gets bad but, of course, he knows some people have to. That's why officers have a variety of tools at their disposal to help.

"If we can, we utilize the push bumpers. Like a big rig, for example, if it gets stuck on the hill and can't get any traction we can give him a little nudge and get him that traction he needs," Patton explained.

When it comes to this storm, Officer Patton told us he expects some cars will get stuck and need help. He's confident the CHP is prepared and he hopes everyone takes the precautions they need to stay as safe as possible.

"It's a Mother Nature thing. You need to respect the weather whether it be rain, snow, ice, sleet --anything -- hail. You really have to drive slow and pay attention to what's going on on the road ahead of you," Patton said.

If the conditions get bad enough, Caltrans will shut the Interstate 80 down.

Patton says that, even when that happens, officers like himself still patrol the freeway just to make sure no one is stuck. It's expected to be a long weekend for a lot of these officers but they say they're ready for anything.

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