Terrifying California Blizzard: Hundreds Stranded on Donner Pass

Jonathan Petramala
2 Mar 202417:06

Summary

TLDRThe video script describes a severe blizzard over Donner Summit on Interstate 80, creating treacherous conditions and paralyzing travel. With heavy snowfall expected to reach 13 feet, the area witnessed vehicles stuck, including a semi-truck accident with the driver miraculously unharmed. Amidst the chaos, some ventured into the storm for adventure, while others were caught unprepared, highlighting the dangers of underestimating severe weather. Efforts to clear the interstate and assist stranded motorists were detailed, emphasizing the community's resilience and the importance of being well-equipped for winter storms.

Takeaways

  • ⛄️ The script describes a severe blizzard and snowstorm that hit the Sierra Nevada region, particularly around Donner Summit on Interstate 80, causing travel chaos and paralysis.
  • πŸš— Many drivers, including those from San Francisco, were caught unprepared and became stranded on Interstate 80 due to the severe weather conditions, leading to a massive traffic jam.
  • ⚠️ Despite warnings and forecasts predicting heavy snowfall, some drivers failed to heed the advice, resulting in vehicles getting stuck, jackknifed semi-trucks, and a need for assistance.
  • πŸ”οΈ The Donner Summit area received significant snowfall, with measurements showing 20 inches near the summit, considered impressive even for the notoriously snowy region.
  • 🌬️ The powerful blizzard was accompanied by intense winds, reaching up to 100 mph, making visibility extremely low and conditions treacherous.
  • 🎿 Ski resorts in the area were forced to shut down due to the fury of the storm, acknowledging the severity of the situation.
  • πŸ‘·β€β™‚οΈ Media crews and emergency services were on the scene, helping stranded drivers and attempting to clear the blocked interstate, highlighting the challenges faced during such extreme weather events.
  • 🚜 Despite having chains and four-wheel drive, some vehicles still struggled to maintain traction and momentum, leading to a chain reaction of vehicles getting stuck and blocking the road.
  • πŸ› οΈ Problem-solving skills and resourcefulness were essential, as media crews and stranded drivers had to work together to push vehicles, improvise towing methods, and navigate through the maze of Mayhem.
  • πŸ”„ The script emphasizes the importance of checking weather conditions, heeding warnings, and being prepared when traveling through treacherous mountain passes during severe winter storms.

Q & A

  • What caused Interstate 80 over Donner Summit to become like a parking lot?

    -The strongest blizzard in California in years caused Interstate 80 over Donner Summit to become like a parking lot, with paralyzing travel conditions.

  • How did some people react to the blizzard warning issued for the Sierra and Donner Pass?

    -Despite a week's worth of warning and a rare blizzard warning for the Sierra and Donner Pass, some people seemed to ignore the advisories, indicating the warnings went in one ear and out the other for them.

  • What was the expected snowfall from the storm through the first weekend of March?

    -Computer models and forecasters believed the storm had the potential to dump 13 feet of snow through the first weekend of March.

  • What historical method of crossing was mentioned, and why is it not used during the blizzard?

    -The old Donner Pass Road, historic US40, was mentioned as a historical method of crossing. It was blocked off during the blizzard because conditions were impossible.

  • Why did some people decide to snowshoe to a remote family cabin despite the severe weather?

    -Some individuals decided to snowshoe to a remote family cabin during the severe weather as part of a long-standing family tradition dating back to 1978, seeking adventure and despite not having a choice due to their commitment.

  • What supplies were considered most important for those braving the blizzard in their family cabin?

    -For those braving the blizzard in their family cabin, the most important supplies included a full load of beer, indicating a focus on maintaining morale and comfort during the harsh conditions.

  • What challenges did drivers and rescuers face during the blizzard on Interstate 80?

    -Drivers and rescuers faced challenges such as vehicles losing traction and momentum, semis and cars getting stuck, and the difficulty of pulling vehicles out or navigating the snow without proper equipment.

  • What was the outcome for the driver of a semi-truck involved in an incident during the blizzard?

    -Incredibly, the driver of a semi-truck involved in an incident during the blizzard walked away unharmed, despite the severe conditions and the truck being piled up on a flatbed.

  • How did the weather conditions on Donner Summit exceed expectations?

    -The wind on Donner Summit exceeded expectations, contributing to the dangerous and disorienting conditions of the blizzard.

  • What led to the traffic jam on Interstate 80, and how long did some people remain trapped?

    -The traffic jam on Interstate 80 was caused by cars driving up without chains, two-wheel drives getting stuck, semis losing momentum or jackknifing, and plows being unable to clear the snow. Some people remained trapped for up to 5 hours.

Outlines

00:00

❄️ Blizzard Chaos on Interstate 80

Interstate 80 over Donner Summit experiences severe traffic disruption due to a powerful blizzard, the strongest in California in years, causing travel paralysis. Despite warnings, many are unprepared, including visitors from San Francisco and Boston seeking snow adventures. The blizzard's intensity surprises even seasoned locals with up to 13 feet of snow predicted, showcasing the unpredictability and danger of such storms. Amidst worsening conditions, efforts to clear accidents, including a semi-truck wreck, highlight the challenges faced by rescuers and travelers alike.

05:02

πŸš— Stranded Travelers and Rescue Efforts

Travelers find themselves stranded as the blizzard intensifies, requiring unconventional solutions like being pulled free by an F250. Amid the chaos, some attempt to make the best of the situation, planning to snowshoe to remote cabins despite the extreme conditions. Meanwhile, rescue efforts become complicated as vehicles, including those with inadequate equipment, get stuck, leading to a collective effort to assist one another. The narrative captures the unpredictability of the weather and the resilience of those caught in it, emphasizing the importance of preparation and community support.

10:06

🌨️ Navigating Blizzard Conditions

The situation on Interstate 80 worsens as more vehicles get stuck in the snow, demonstrating the challenges of navigating blizzard conditions. Despite attempts to assist stranded drivers, communication barriers and inadequate equipment exacerbate the difficulties. The community's efforts to help, including pushing vehicles and coordinating with emergency services, highlight the severity of the storm and the dangers of underestimating weather conditions. The narrative underscores the importance of heeding weather warnings and the impact of severe weather on travel and safety.

15:18

πŸ†˜ Emergency Response and Community Effort

As the blizzard continues, emergency responders and volunteers work tirelessly to manage the chaos on Interstate 80. The closure of the interstate due to accidents and stuck vehicles illustrates the immense challenges faced by both travelers and authorities. The collective effort to clear the traffic jam and assist those in need reflects the strength of community and the critical role of emergency services in crisis situations. The experience serves as a stark reminder of the power of nature and the importance of preparedness and cooperation in emergency scenarios.

Mindmap

Keywords

πŸ’‘Blizzard

A severe snowstorm with high winds and low visibility. The video describes a powerful blizzard hitting the Sierra Nevada mountains, causing whiteout conditions and making travel extremely difficult. Examples: "it's a blizzard and Interstate 80 is a, parking lot over Donner, Summit", "this is an extremely powerful, wizzard that is blasting, here on Donner Summit".

πŸ’‘Interstate 80

A major interstate highway that runs through the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. In the video, Interstate 80 over Donner Summit becomes impassable due to the blizzard conditions, with vehicles getting stuck and the road turning into a "parking lot". Examples: "Interstate 80 is a, parking lot over Donner, Summit", "the interstate eastbound has been closed now, for several hours".

πŸ’‘Donner Summit

A mountain pass in the Sierra Nevada range, known for its extreme winter conditions and hazardous travel. The video is focused on the blizzard's impact on Donner Summit, where vehicles become stranded and the historic old pass road is blocked off. Examples: "on top of Donner, Summit admittedly the storm started slow", "this is daer Summit you can see, we're over 7,000 ft in, elevation".

πŸ’‘Whiteout

A condition during a blizzard or heavy snowstorm where the falling snow and wind make it impossible to see, causing complete loss of visibility. The video highlights the whiteout conditions on Donner Summit, where people can barely see in front of their faces. Example: "this is what they're talking, about you can barely see a hand in front, of your, [Music], face".

πŸ’‘Chains

Metal chains that are put on vehicle tires to improve traction on snowy or icy roads. The video mentions that even vehicles with chains were getting stuck due to the severity of the blizzard conditions. Example: "he has chain he has chains, himself so put those put those, underneath your tires for traction".

πŸ’‘Snowplow

A specialized vehicle equipped with a plow blade used to remove snow from roads and highways. The video shows snowplows trying to clear Interstate 80 and create a path through the snow, but the severe conditions make it difficult. Example: "you never know, how the snow plow is going to box you in".

πŸ’‘Traction

The grip or friction between a vehicle's tires and the road surface, which is essential for safe driving, especially in snowy or icy conditions. The video highlights the lack of traction experienced by vehicles on Interstate 80, causing them to get stuck or lose control. Example: "semis have lost traction and momentum, even with chains they aren't, moving".

πŸ’‘Momentum

The force or driving force that keeps a vehicle in motion. In the video, the blizzard conditions cause vehicles, especially large semi-trucks, to lose momentum and become stranded on the road. Example: "semis have lost traction and momentum, even with chains they aren't, moving".

πŸ’‘Jackknife

A situation where a vehicle, typically a large truck or semi-trailer, folds or bends in a way that causes the front and rear sections to form a sharp angle, often blocking the road. The video mentions jackknifed semis obstructing Interstate 80 during the blizzard. Example: "they either lose, momentum or they go too fast and they, jack knife and they block theate".

πŸ’‘Chain Reaction

A series of events where one event triggers another, which in turn triggers another, and so on. The video describes a "chain reaction event" where one vehicle getting stuck on Interstate 80 leads to others getting stuck, creating a traffic jam that worsens the situation. Example: "it's just a chain Chain Reaction event, where next car just get stuck".

Highlights

A powerful blizzard hit the Sierra Nevada mountains, dumping over 20 inches of snow near Donner Summit and causing Interstate 80 to become a parking lot.

Forecasters had warned of the potential for a historic snowstorm, with predictions of up to 13 feet of snow through the first weekend of March.

The wind gusts exceeded expectations, reaching over 100 mph at times, creating whiteout conditions that made it nearly impossible to see.

Despite the severe weather, some daring individuals, including a group from Boston, decided to snowshoe to a remote family cabin in the midst of the blizzard.

Ski resorts in the area were forced to shut down due to the fury of the storm, a sign of its severity.

A semi-truck cab was left mangled on the side of the road after a wreck, with the driver miraculously walking away unharmed.

The storm started slowly but soon escalated, catching many travelers off guard and leaving them stranded on the interstate.

Even vehicles equipped with chains struggled to maintain traction and momentum, leading to jackknifed semis and blocked lanes.

Drivers resorted to pushing and towing each other's vehicles in an effort to get unstuck and clear the way.

The news crew found themselves trapped in the chaos, ultimately needing assistance to navigate through the maze of stranded vehicles.

The storm exposed the vulnerability of travelers who fail to check weather conditions or heed warnings, leading to a chain reaction of vehicles becoming stuck.

The historic Donner Pass Road, formerly U.S. Route 40, was blocked off due to the impossible conditions, a reminder of the challenges faced by early travelers over the Sierra Nevada.

The news crew found themselves playing the role of problem solvers, helping stranded drivers and even assisting other news teams stuck in the storm.

Despite the challenges, some travelers remained undeterred, determined to reach their destinations or enjoy the extreme winter conditions.

The storm served as a testament to the power and fury of nature, forcing even the most seasoned travelers to exercise caution and respect the elements.

Transcripts

00:00

it's a blizzard and Interstate 80 is a

00:03

parking lot over Donner

00:13

Summit media and helping people push to

00:16

get it unblocked okay when I say go s he

00:20

just didn't understand every one of

00:22

these guys is an that's going to

00:23

get in our

00:28

way

00:32

you guys like to come up during this

00:34

kind of weather well we didn't have a

00:35

choice you visiting from Boston a week's

00:39

worth of warning clearly blew through

00:41

one ear and out of the other for some

00:42

and yeah many of those from San

00:45

Francisco the strongest blizzard in

00:47

California in years paralyzing travel

00:49

not pulling any

00:58

punches

01:04

[Music]

01:11

drivers trapped in a chaotic dance with

01:14

white out conditions ski resorts

01:15

shutting down conceding to Nature's

01:22

Fury if you thought the storm was just

01:25

hype uh keep

01:27

watching and maybe learn from other Mile

01:30

High mistakes on top of Donner

01:34

Summit admittedly the storm started slow

01:37

but there was foreshadowing this is

01:39

what's left of a semi-truck cab piled up

01:42

on this flatbed as they try and clear

01:45

this wreck from Interstate 80 the

01:46

interstate eastbound has been closed now

01:49

for several hours and it's before the

01:51

worst of this potentially historic

01:53

blizzard in snowstorm hit you can see

01:55

the conditions are worsening wind is

01:57

picking up snow is becoming heavier

02:02

piece of the semi just whipping around

02:04

off the back of that

02:08

flatbed incredibly I was told by the CHP

02:10

the driver walked away

02:16

unharmed you can see right there looks

02:20

like one of the driver's shoes still

02:27

here for a week computer models and

02:29

forecasters believe this storm had the

02:31

potential to dump 13 ft of snow through

02:34

the first weekend of March a multi-day

02:36

storm and a rare blizzard warning for

02:38

the Sierra and on her pass Thursday

02:41

measurements showed 20 in Falling near

02:44

the summit that's impressive for nearly

02:46

anywhere but it's really just considered

02:48

a dusting in one of the snowiest spots

02:50

in the

02:53

country the wind

02:58

though the wind wind exceeded

03:00

expectation definitely at least

03:12

ours when they talk about the dangers of

03:15

blizzards and how quickly you can be

03:16

disoriented that's what they're talking

03:19

about you can barely see a hand in front

03:23

of your

03:23

[Music]

03:25

face this is daer Summit you can see

03:29

we're over 7,000 ft in

03:32

elevation this is the old da Pass Road

03:36

historic

03:38

us40 you can see it's blocked off

03:41

because conditions are just impossible

03:44

before Interstate 80 was built this was

03:46

the only way over for most

03:52

people here comes another

03:55

one you have to be cautious of your

03:57

footing because of this

04:02

this is an extremely powerful

04:06

wizzard that is blasting

04:09

here on Donner Summit did you notice the

04:12

dog don't worry her owner and his

04:14

college friend appeared shortly after

04:16

like literal ghosts snowshoeing through

04:19

100 mph gusts the dog she warmed up

04:24

quickly the surrounding ski slopes were

04:26

closed a telling sign of the severity

04:28

even so these guys decided that they

04:31

were going to snow shoot to a remote

04:33

family cabin Lake Mary there's a group

04:35

of cabins uh 38 of a mile from here and

04:38

in the winter you have to Snowshoe to

04:39

get to it oh okay and so our family has

04:42

been doing that since

04:43

78 uh so we've been here a long time do

04:46

you guys like to come up during this

04:47

kind of weather well we we didn't have a

04:49

choice you visiting from

04:52

Boston so Boston these guys have had all

04:55

your snow they've stolen all the snow

04:56

from we've got nine Ines in Boston this

04:59

year which is about a I don't know about

05:02

a fifth of what we normally get and the

05:05

mountains have been terrible too so I

05:07

came out here to find

05:09

snow we do like that it's a good

05:14

Venture your face got to be brutalized

05:17

man I let you get underneath your car

05:19

and get some shelter guys thanks a lot

05:20

appreciate

05:22

it it was just an overnight but enough

05:25

that when they got back they

05:28

realized

05:30

not only they're going to need a bigger

05:31

shovel they're going need something even

05:33

bigger how about like a F250 pulling

05:37

them

05:58

free

06:16

just in time for Rob's brother it's his

06:19

turn to reenact The Shining yeah I'm

06:21

going go into the cabin we're we're

06:22

switching out seriously

06:25

yeah this doesn't intimidate you that go

06:28

oh we've been doing this since or five

06:30

yeah so you know we've had to go into

06:34

that cabin like this deep you know yeah

06:38

but it's really the parking lot that's

06:40

the most intimidating CU you never know

06:42

how the snow plow is going to box you in

06:44

I'm almost tempted just to

06:46

unload get organized and then drive to

06:48

Sugar Bowl and park in the lot but no

06:50

fear they're supplied in a way what's

06:53

the most important supply for the

06:56

weekend

06:58

the

07:00

There He

07:02

Go all right Tod there you go it's a

07:04

full Lo it was a recurring theme

07:06

changing plans considered concrete were

07:09

not considered good luck thank you even

07:12

though feet of Sierra cement were piling

07:14

up working in weather we expect and plan

07:18

for the worst it's why we rent a big

07:20

truck like this so we're the ones

07:22

pulling people out and not the other way

07:28

around

07:30

what were you up here

07:32

for it's bad idea we're kind of try to

07:36

go there yeah and then friend this close

07:39

and then we're just okay let's go home

07:41

and then we just couldn't get on to the

07:43

to the highway but there is a limit and

07:45

you have to know how far you can push it

07:48

or in this case pull it if you stay

07:50

straight in the middle what's that if

07:52

you stay straight in the middle you

07:53

should be okay I can pull it down this

07:54

way I can't pull yeah that's yeah like

07:58

that's what we'll try and strap it to so

08:00

when he gets up here yeah I'm going to

08:02

get you these straps and then I'll have

08:04

you do

08:10

it so now the trick is trying to find a

08:13

place where you can Loop it at least and

08:16

and hook it to his car so we can try and

08:17

jerk it loose the problem is yeah like

08:20

where did I put this Loop yeah let me

08:23

think of about here for a

08:25

second okay so he has a looped around

08:28

his um

08:30

his

08:31

axle and it came with the loop and he

08:33

put it around his Muffler I think your

08:35

muffler is going to get ripped off how

08:37

about

08:38

this all right let's

08:48

see that's as good of an idea as

08:55

any on

08:58

hook coming what the old tow truck's

09:01

coming he's got most out in there too

09:03

okay so go ahead and unhook he's got his

09:04

shovel looped in like a fc uh-huh want

09:07

to try that care all right let's try it

09:10

all

09:11

right okay let's try it um get in your

09:15

car put it in neutral okay and we'll see

09:18

uh I guess we'll see what we can do

09:20

fingers crossed yeah otherwise there's a

09:22

tow truck right over here oh okay so you

09:24

can get out and walk down to him okay

09:28

yeah

09:36

[Music]

09:38

my Direction all right Jim yeah you're

09:40

good so here's what we're going to do

09:41

we're going to have you put it in uh

09:43

reverse reverse and try to help him yeah

09:45

to to get it to hold out okay give me

09:47

one

09:53

second okay

09:58

Jim

10:00

reverse

10:05

go well good

10:23

engineering didn't even bend the

10:26

shovel what's up any way we can go that

10:30

direction or you're going to have to go

10:32

back uhhuh to Soda Springs Soda Springs

10:35

Exit so you'll exit right okay come

10:38

around the bridge and get on and come up

10:40

okay so that ramp is better yeah a see a

10:43

lot better cuz you're going

10:45

downhill bye bye enjoy the snow you're

10:50

welcome enjoy the snow okay okay bye

10:54

thanks

10:55

Jim

10:57

bye cute family on one exit you can see

11:00

just how quickly trouble piles up with

11:03

this snow he needs help right there I

11:05

see that yeah we tried to get him down

11:08

man but oh you tried pulling him down

11:10

any tried yeah you couldn't pull him

11:12

down no cuz we we got stuck so does he

11:14

have a hook on the back no well Jim got

11:17

stuck again so how many people are stuck

11:19

so far

11:20

today prob do what's that probably a

11:23

dozen I

11:27

know

11:43

I don't know if I'd recommend entering

11:46

the uh Interstate that way that's pretty

11:48

bad huh I've seen three people get stuck

11:51

it's a weakness many have with weather

11:53

when driving from point A to point B how

11:56

often do you check what the weather's

11:58

doing in between

12:01

Queen San Francisco toino isn't one of

12:04

the hardest drives in the country

12:06

because of the distance it's Dawn or

12:08

pass that separates those two cities

12:11

this isn't for

12:13

beginners and when the weather's like

12:15

this it isn't for anyone but snowplows

12:17

to try and make it but clearly that

12:20

didn't stop hundreds maybe thousands

12:22

from trying it's a blizzard and

12:25

Interstate 80 is a parking lot over

12:28

Donner

12:29

it semis have lost traction and momentum

12:33

even with chains they aren't

12:43

moving oh he stuck if he's he's stuck

12:47

uhhuh and there's more people like him

12:49

down

12:50

there like a truck trucks cars yeah this

12:53

is what happens when they lose momentum

12:56

oh I see

12:57

yeah

13:02

it's crazy you know he probably told him

13:04

that he had four-wheel drive and they

13:05

probably just didn't leave check yeah

13:07

they need to check cuz I asked him too

13:10

do you have fourel drive he said yeah oh

13:12

he hey he has chain he has chains

13:15

himself so put those put those

13:18

underneath your tires for traction do

13:21

you understand what I'm saying I cannot

13:23

speak Engish I'm sorry uh say SP no um

13:27

okay

13:31

okay he's going to get stuck

13:34

now he's going to hit your

13:37

car the worst part is the truck that's

13:39

turned over over

13:40

there how far down is

13:53

it he yes we're going to try push okay

13:57

so go forward okay okay

14:06

okay

14:13

go I don't think you

14:16

understands spinning no okay when I say

14:21

go

14:24

dve you just didn't

14:27

understand

14:44

all

14:46

right at least we can get

14:51

through and then

14:54

go

14:57

okay

15:17

media and helping people push to get it

15:19

unlocked okay I need to loot everybody

15:21

out I need you in your car cuz I can't

15:23

tell who's who I get what you're saying

15:24

but I need you in your car okay trust me

15:27

nobody was move without me ping that

15:35

guy you got to be a problem solver up

15:44

here so we've seen why the interstate is

15:47

closed we have cars that drive up

15:49

without chains two wheel drive and they

15:51

get stuck and then you have semis that

15:53

have chains but then they either lose

15:55

momentum or they go too fast and they

15:57

jack knife and they block theate and

15:59

then the plows can't get in the Stow

16:01

piles up and then anybody that can move

16:03

it's just a chain Chain Reaction event

16:05

where next car just get stuck 5 hours

16:08

that's how long we sat trapped while

16:09

calr unraveled this traffic jam

16:12

eventually creating enough space to

16:13

navigate through the Maze of Mayhem into

16:16

more white outs and snow

16:27

drifts

16:30

good news

16:34

absolutely for the news if we hadn't

16:37

made it the CBS affiliate from San

16:39

Francisco would have been stuck in their

16:40

News truck M miles from their

16:51

hotel I mean you're good you're just

16:53

going to have to reverse where you're

16:54

going to get to the Spring Hill seds

16:56

yeah I got to get that hook for you yeah

17:01

we not only shoot the

17:02

news we help the

17:05

news