LAKE TAHOE (BCN) – Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin posted a video on social media Wednesday urging drivers from the Bay Area and around the state to avoid non-essential mountain travel until weather conditions improve.

“If you must travel, make sure you’re prepared,” Omishakin said.

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He urged people who want to visit family and friends to “stay off the roads, conditions are treacherous” in a video posted on the CalTransHQ Twitter page.

On Thursday morning, officials from Caltrans District 3 issued their own advisory urging essential travel only, noting some communities still do not have power.

By 11 a.m., chain controls have been dropped on both Interstate 80 and Highway 50, but crews are still working on clearing the roads.

Caltrans has redirected all available crews into the mountains to reopen roadways, bringing operators from as far away as the Bay Area to assist. The department has 1,350 field staff clearing mountain highways, working 24/7 in 12-hour shifts, and has deployed more than 600 snowplows statewide.

Caltrans has recorded more than $22 million in storm damage to state highways during the current winter storm, not including snow and fallen tree removal costs. Hundreds of trees have fallen onto highways, slowing the snow removal process.

Caltrans shared the following safety tips for motorists who must travel to the mountains:

– Before heading out, check Caltrans QuickMap for the latest road closure and chain control information;

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– Carry chains and be ready for winter driving conditions;

– Make sure your vehicle is in good working order by checking your brakes, wipers, antifreeze, heaters and exhaust systems before you leave;

– Do not try to go around highway closures by using secondary roads;

– Slow down for Caltrans crews, California Highway Patrol officers, and other emergency responders out trying to help control traffic and clear the roads;

– “Don’t Crowd the Plow” – tailgating or trying to go around snowplows can result in potentially dangerous situations;

– Have an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes blankets, water, food, a shovel, gloves, a flashlight, and sand or kitty litter to provide traction in case your vehicle becomes stuck;

– Bring cash in case power is unavailable for credit card transactions;

– Keep your phone charged in case you need it in an emergency.

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