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Weekend reprieve before next storm hits

Truckers line interstate waiting for road to reopen
By: Loryll Nicolaisen and Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writers
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Those overworked windshield wipers can take a bit of a break going into the weekend. After heavy rain and snow earlier in the week, it appears the low-pressure systems dumping on much of the region are headed out of town. “It’s moving out,” said Johnnie Powell, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Sacramento, on Wednesday. “Today is what we call a transition day, today and tomorrow.” The Auburn Post Office rain gauge collected 1.35 inches between 10 a.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday, Powell said. Today’s forecast calls for a slight chance of showers and mild temperatures, with sun breaking through the clouds by Friday and Saturday before another system comes in. “Sunday and Monday there’s a chance of rain, but it doesn’t look too impressive,” Powell said. Wednesday was a day for cleaning up and wringing out after a storm front walloped the region. Wintry conditions resulted in a 12-hour closure on Interstate 80, with eastbound traffic turned away at Applegate from 9 p.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Wednesday, said Mike Pugh, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol in Gold Run. “It just got so bad and risky for drivers, so we decided with Caltrans to shut down the freeway,” he said. Spinouts, whiteouts and jack-knifed trucks all added up to the decision by California Highway Patrol and Caltrans to close the highway, halting many motorists from making their way up the hill. “If you could get a penny for every one that was out there, I could retire,” Pugh said of the number of trucks parked and waiting out the road closure Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. “When I came in (Wednesday) it was just a sea of big-rig trucks.” Rest areas at Gold Run are closed due to construction, adding to the clutter, Pugh said. At Clipper Gap’s Olivers store, the regular morning coffee crowd rubbed elbows with dozens of truckers who headed to the business just off Interstate 80 for a cup of coffee near their parked rigs. But the throng of truck drivers quickly dissipated at just after 9 a.m. when the door opened and one truck driver stuck his head in the door to say two magic words before quickly walking to his own rig. “Road’s open,” the driver said, creating a swift move toward the exit and the open road. “It was crazy,” said Olivers manager Robert Sinel, noting that he had a coffee drinker waiting across the street when he opened at 6:30 a.m. One count showed more than 100 rigs parked along the freeway from Meadow Vista to Auburn during the closure, with dozens near Olivers and the Clipper Gap-Meadow Vista exit, east of Auburn. “A trucker got on the CB and spread the word,” Sinel said. The Interstate 80 closure also turned into a temporary uptick in business for local accommodation facilities. The Auburn Holiday Inn had a near-capacity night, with even the parking lot filled up as the storm stretched into the morning. Trucks hitting the breaks further down the hill were spotted waiting out the storm at the Gold Country Fairgrounds and even further down Interstate 80, with a concentration of rigs parked near the Newcastle exits. Mountain resorts will benefit from the mid-season boost this recent system brought. Jon Slaughter, Boreal marketing manager, said the resort has received more than six feet of fresh snow since Sunday. “It took us a few hours to dig out this morning,” he said Wednesday. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at lorylln@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment online at Auburnjournal.com.