Storm causes multiple accidents, closes I-80

Snowfall, cold temperatures expected in Auburn
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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A series of vehicle accidents along Interstate 80 in the Sierra killed one person, sent another to the hospital and closed the highway for a couple of hours Sunday. “There were probably in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 (accidents),” Sgt. Chris Wurster, acting sergeant in the California Highway Patrol’s Gold Run station, said Sunday evening. The crashes occurred initially in the Yuba grade area below Donner Pass and then spread out in both directions, he said. “It then went south on dynamite curve and then farther west to Baxter and Gold Run,” he said. “The storm dropped very fast and dropped a lot of snow very quickly. Most of the collisions occurred before we had a chance to get chain controls.” A 14-year-old passenger was killed in a fatal crash that happened at 11:05 a.m. Sunday west of Blue Canyon. According to Wurster, a 2004 Toyota, driven by the teen’s grandfather, veered off the highway and into a tree. The 62-year-old driver resides in Orangevale. On Sunday evening, I-80 was open across the Sierra, but chain controls were in effect eastbound at Alta, and would remain in place through the night. “It’s going to freeze up,” Wurster said. The system that snarled traffic in the Sierra Sunday was a precursor to the main storm arriving overnight, according to Karl Swanberg with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. As of Sunday evening, the latest storm track forecast called for snow levels to drop from 2,000 feet to 1,000 sometime after midnight and into the morning hours. “For Auburn, we’re looking at two to possibly six inches,” Swanberg said. “Auburn should be on the lower end of that. We’ve got snow in the forecast for Monday and diminishing to a chance of snow showers by Monday evening.” The wintry precipitation was expected to reach the valley floor, with a mix of rain and snow, he said. Temperatures in Auburn were expected to be in the upper 20s to low 30s Sunday night into Monday morning, but dropping Monday night. “With decreasing cloudiness, lows in the foothills could range from 19 to 28,” he said. The coolest spots will be in basins where cold air tends to settle, he added. As the system passes through, the Sierra will see high winds and significant snowfall. “Total accumulation by the time this is over, counting what they had Sunday, could be two to three feet at the highest elevations,” Swanberg said. “This is a cold system. Snow will be falling as powder. It will blow around and limit visibility and will impact travel. People (traveling to the Sierra) will need extra warm clothing, should top off the gas tank and be prepared for potentially dangerous winter conditions up there.” Gloria Young can be reached at