The purchase of equipment is part of normal budgeting, but the specialized devices are expensive. A recently purchased snow blower cost more than half a million dollars and replaced a blower that was manufactured in 1972. In all, the county operates 37 pieces of snow removal equipment: nine plow and sanders, 12 blowers and 16 graders.
This is the reel on a snow blower. This machine is actually five years old but shows light wear due to four consecutive years of drought, which produced little snowfall.
Sand has traditionally been used to increase traction on roadways. However in the Tahoe Basin, sand equates to sediment and sediment usually ends up in the lake. The loss of Lake Tahoe’s clarity is attributed in large part to the fine sediments that have run unchecked into the water. Road crews spread sand judiciously, but not during active snow storms because the sand would just be plowed off. Following Caltrans’ lead, road crews use sand that meets hardness and durability requirements and is less prone to being ground into fine sediment.
Placer County has never used a lot of granular salt to keep snow and ice from freezing and sticking to the roadway. Granular salt tends to quickly get pushed off the roadway, which then requires more salt to be applied. Road crews have begun using a brine solution in areas that are notorious for icing. Brine, which uses far less salt, adheres better to the road than granular salt and is more effective.
Snow removal equipment warms up in a yard on Donner Summit.
Placer County offers a wealth of winter activities, whether it is alpine or Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, sledding or simply sitting next to the fire and watching the snowflakes fall. With common sense, patience and simple preparations, getting to the snow can be a safe and enjoyable experience.
Caltrans highway information: 800-427-7623
Here are some Caltrans websites on winter travel:
Story produced by the Placer County Communications and Public Affairs Office
Written by: Robert Miller
Photography: Erik Bergen and Placer County Roads