1940: Near-Record Snow Cleared in Record Time by Caltrans

March 18, 1940

With the first day of spring only a couple of days away, the California Division of Highways (part of the present-day California Department of Transportation) announced that a section of U.S. Route 50 (US 50) in the Golden State that had been blocked by snow was again available for traffic. This section was between the cities of Placerville and South Lake Tahoe via the mountain pass known as Echo Summit.

The announcement about the reopening of that section in northeastern California was made the day after the Division of Highways had finished clearing away the large snowdrifts still covering US 50 on and near Echo Summit. “Echo Summit Is Open To Travel,” proclaimed a headline in the Sacramento Bee newspaper on the day of the division’s announcement.

The actual reopening of the previously snow-obstructed segment took place at 8:30 on that Monday morning, with the first motor vehicle making its way over Echo Summit a minute later. The individuals traveling in that automobile were identified by the Sacramento Bee as area residents John Keller of the community of Bijou Park (now part of South Lake Tahoe) and Ralph King of the community of Echo Portals.

With all of US 50 in California now completely freed of snowdrifts, the state’s Open Highway 50 Association publicly expressed its thanks to the Division of Highways for clearing off the state’s share of that highway just in time for spring. The association highlighted the fact that, despite heavier-than-average snowfalls that winter, the division still managed to clear US 50 at least one month earlier than in previous years.

Construction on the segment of US 50 traversing Echo Summit had begun in 1936. With an elevation of 7,382 feet (2,250 meters), Echo Summit is the highest part of California’s portion of that transcontinental route.

For more information on U.S. Route 50 in California, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_50_in_California.

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