Christmas Day winter storm may create difficult driving conditions

MEDFORD, Ore.- “That’s why preparation is the key. Being informed and knowing what you are capable of is most important.”

Christmas Day bringing in high winds and a winter storm warning to the region. The holiday could mean more people traveling and possibly hitting the road in these conditions.

“If it’s snowing really hard and you don’t need to go, stay home. It’s just a better way to go,” said Denise Yergenson with California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans. She says the varied terrain of interstate five and the intensity of the storm could make it hazardous to drive.

“So you can go into a lower spot where you think its not going to be icy or snowy and it can just hit instantaneously,” she explained.

In California, it’s mandatory to carry chains when driving in these conditions. But that’s not the only thing you should keep in your car.

“Carry chains, carry food, carry water, carry blankets because you just never know. If you left at the wrong moment and it starts coming down, you don’t want to be the one stuck with no provisions,” Yergenson advises. She says if it gets bad enough they could start a hold on either side of the Siskiyou summit on I-5.

That means major delays.

“Be prepared that you might get stopped in Redding or you might get stopped in Oregon and held because if its as bad as its supposed to be at that higher elevation, than we probably wont be letting people go,”

Those delays could also happen on the Oregon side of the border.

“We work closely with California and we will hold traffic in Oregon for California if they have severe weather. Same thing for them. If we have trouble and struggling on Siskiyou summit in Oregon, they will hold traffic for us at Redding as well,” said the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Gary Leaming. He says it’s not just about having the right supplies but knowing yourself as a driver.

“If you’re not comfortable in those kinds of conditions and you’re not comfortable with that level of risk, maybe stay home an extra day,” he advised.

He says if you have to hit the road, stick to the highly maintained highways even if they get backed up.

“If it’s bad enough that the interstate is blocked or closed, don’t think you can get through there and follow your GPS on a side road. Typically they are not as well maintained,” Leaming says. He says its up to both drivers and the department to keep travel safe this holiday season.

“Really cant do our job unless you do your job, and vice versa, so it really is a team effort,” he said.

If you do hit the road, officials suggest you use “Trip Check” to check road conditions. Also, make sure your car is well-stocked with winter driving supplies and a full tank of gas.

Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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