Officials warn about driving with hail on area roadways

Caltrans District 1, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service in Eureka (NOAA), and the Garberville area California Highway Patrol (CHP) have started a campaign to educate and notify the traveling public about small hail weather events experienced on North Coast highways. Campaign outreach will include posters with driving tips to be displayed in public places, hail event notifications using news alerts and social media, and the display of real time small hail weather event information on Caltrans District 1 highway changeable message signs.

The winter season brings the threat of small hail showers to Northwest California. Accumulating hail on roadways can result in very slick driving conditions. In fact, driving on a hail-covered road is very similar to driving on a sheet of ice. Motorists can easily lose control of their vehicle resulting in a collision.

Here are some small hail weather event driver’s safety tips:

o Dark clouds ahead signal the potential for hail.

o Slow down and use your seatbelts. Small hail will make roads icy. Keep a constant watch for other vehicles.

o Turn on your headlights. Anytime your windshield wipers are on, your headlights are required to be on - it’s the law.

o Turn off cruise control. This will allow you to better react to sudden weather changes.

o Don’t panic. If you begin to slide on a hail-covered roadway, slowly take your foot off the gas pedal. And remember, don’t slam on the brakes or make any sudden steering adjustments.

"Small hail on North Coast roadways can make for extremely hazardous driving conditions and has been a factor in far too many traffic collisions causing injuries and claiming lives. A small hail event can come in an instant and without prior notice. The CHP’s hope is that partnering with Caltrans District 1 and the National Weather Service in Eureka to launch this campaign will reduce the amount of weather related traffic collisions and ultimately save lives," said Garberville area CHP lieutenant commander Adam Jager.

"Small hail showers occur most often in the winter and early spring, but can occur in the fall as well," said Nancy Dean, meteorologist in charge, National Weather Service Eureka. "Motorists should be on the lookout for dark, stormy clouds ahead and/or very heavy rainfall. Both can indicate the potential for small hail on the road just ahead."

"Weather conditions can change quickly on the north coast. Most winter accidents are the result of driving too fast for the conditions. Slow down, use your seat belt and arrive safely to your destination," said Charlie Fielder, Caltrans District 1 director.

Please drive safely this winter season.

photo caption:

(From left to right) Charlie Fielder, Caltrans District 1 director; Nancy Dean, meteorologist in charge, National Weather Service Eureka; and Garberville Area CHP lieutenant commander Adam Jager join to raise awareness about small hail on area roadways.