The snow has closed the highways. GPS has mapped a heart-wrenching detour in the Sierra Nevada.

The road once carried stagecoaches during the Gold Rush, winding through what is now a national forest and an area of ​​the Sierra Nevad...


The road once carried stagecoaches during the Gold Rush, winding through what is now a national forest and an area of ​​the Sierra Nevada known for snowmobiling.

In winter, the rugged passage, known as Quincy-La Porte Road or County Road 511 in Plumas County, California, is firm.

But Wendy Becktold, a Bay Area writer who was on her way to visit a sick relative in Reno, Nevada on Monday, said she didn’t know when she sailed in her rented Toyota Corolla. while the region was still struggling with a record snowstorm.

Google Maps had guided her this way because two major highways near Lake Tahoe were closed, she said in an interview on Wednesday, echoing the concerns of other drivers and public safety officials about the dangers. potential for over-reliance on GPS applications.

They said Google Maps and Waze, which also belong to Google, along with other mapping programs, would not always take seasonal road closures or dangerous terrain into account, instead focusing on road closures. temporary.

“There were a lot of cars behind us,” Ms. Becktold said. “Obviously, Google Maps routed everyone the same.”

Ms Becktold, 50, editor-in-chief of Sierra, a magazine published by the Sierra Club, said she and her cousin saw a tree branch on a power line and passed many cabins as they continued without knowing. Then a worker wearing a safety vest waved to them, said Ms Becktold, who lives in Berkeley, Calif.

“He said, ‘Everybody keep showing me their phone,’” recalls Becktold. “He was like exasperated.”

A spokesperson for Google Maps said in a statement Wednesday that the tech company is taking steps to provide drivers with accurate route information.

“In light of the unpredictable conditions of the current snowstorm, our team is working as quickly as possible to update the routes in the Lake Tahoe area using details from local authorities. Said spokesperson Madison Gouveia. “We are currently posting a winter storm warning to alert drivers in the area and encourage everyone to stay alert and alert. “

Google Maps did not respond to questions about the type of protections it uses for drivers, including warnings about road closures in winter or unpaved roads. SFGate.com reported the white detours earlier.

In Washoe County, Nevada, which includes Reno, a Southern California family of five was stranded for two hours Monday night when their rental van got stuck in the snow on a dirt road in two-way, the county sheriff’s office said.

The family had been looking for an alternate route to visit relatives for the vacation in Truckee, Calif., During the storm, which closed an 81-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and contributed to the snowiest December on record. recorded in the Sierra.

More than 17 feet of snow fell during the month as of Thursday, according to the Central Sierra Snow Lab at the University of California at Berkeley. The storm also closed Hwy 50 for about 50 miles in the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe Basin before I-80 reopened.

In one Facebook post The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office said on Tuesday the family ignored illuminated warning signs telling drivers not to use the Dog Valley-Henness Pass roads.

“However, the family’s GPS has won the technology battle to listen,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, adding that the family had been saved.

It was not clear which GPS application the family was using.

In one public warning Last week, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office said drivers frequently took the same detour when using GPS. From November 2020 to last February, rescuers were called for 11 rescues, according to the sheriff.

Raquel Borrayo, spokesperson for Caltrans, the California State Department of Transportation, said in an email Wednesday that the agency had tried to reinforce the fact that over reliance on GPS apps can be risky.

“When people try to use mapping apps like Waze or Google Maps to avoid freeway closures, they can sometimes find themselves in very precarious and dangerous situations with unplowed roads / dirt roads, heavy amounts of snow and lousy cell phone service, ”Ms. Borrayo said. . “We always tell people to stay on the highways and find alternative routes to rural roads. We also recommend that people stay put and wait until the highway or highway closure is lifted. “

During this week’s storm, several people posted on Twitter screenshots of Google Maps and Waze directions directing users to Henness Pass Road, which the Sierra County Historical Society described as a secluded, winding mountain road that rises to an elevation of 6,920 feet. The route, a main trail for emigrants from Virginia City, Nevada, is “omitted from many maps,” according to a description on the Historical Society’s website.

Donner Pass, named after the family of doomed snow-capped pioneers, some of whom resorted to cannibalism in the 1840s, is about 40 miles away.

A spokesperson for Waze said in an email Thursday that the company is committed to helping drivers navigate safely and efficiently.

“In light of this week’s snowstorm and changing weather conditions, Waze Community Map Editors continue to keep our maps up to date with the latest real-time routing information, ”said spokesperson Caroline Bourdeau. “We encourage drivers to exercise caution and stay alert on the road”,

Waze has a filter that allows drivers to avoid unpaved roads.

Crystal A. Kolden, a geographer and disaster specialist who teaches at the University of California at Merced, said she couldn’t believe it when she saw Google Maps suggested Henness Pass and other routes in the city. backcountry drivers looking for alternatives to I-80.

“They are barely flyable in summer,” Professor Kolden said on Wednesday. “To what extent do these companies have an ethical responsibility? “

Professor Kolden, 44, who was at her home near Sonora, Calif. In the Sierra foothills during the storm, slammed Google Maps on Twitter. Some commentators scoffed at her post, saying drivers should take responsibility for monitoring conditions and she looked like a millennial behind the wheel of a Prius.

“Blaming vulnerable people for taking the wrong path is like blaming some of those vulnerable and poor people who drowned in their basement apartments in New York City not so long ago,” she said. said in an interview, referring to the deadly floods in September.

Google Maps on Wednesday showed red dots with dashes on the route Ms Becktold took on her hijacked trip on Monday. The road closure warnings had not been there two days earlier, she said.

“It wasn’t like we were frolicking, looking for a day in the snow,” Ms. Becktold said.

Ms Becktold said she had no choice but to return to Berkeley after she had traveled about 150 miles in the 200 mile trip. Her cousin, who was trying to reach her sick brother in Reno, eventually opted for a flight from San Francisco to Reno – via Los Angeles, she said.

“It seems a bit silly these days,” she said, “that there cannot be any clearer information online that these roads are closed.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: The snow has closed the highways. GPS has mapped a heart-wrenching detour in the Sierra Nevada.
The snow has closed the highways. GPS has mapped a heart-wrenching detour in the Sierra Nevada.
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