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PLACER COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — With each Sierra snowstorm, thousands of people brave the conditions looking to head up the mountain for fresh powder. 

Far too often though, they can spend hours or even days trapped by Mother Nature, which happened two weeks ago when parts of Highway 50 and Interstate 80 were forced to close.

For nearly two hours, traffic crawled, and at times, was stopped on eastbound I-80 in the Sierra with cars full of people desperate to get out of their vehicles, and this situation played out multiple days in a row recently.

The slowdown was caused by Caltrans crews shutting down the interstate due to whiteout conditions and vehicle accidents.

Caltrans officials advise travelers to be prepared.

“You’re going to have to wait it out, and that can take several hours sometimes,” said Caltrans spokesperson Raquel Borrayo. “Recommend that you have snacks in your car, water, blankets because you never know what might happen.”

Before being stuck in winter traffic, travelers are advised to have windshield wiper fluid that is rated for all seasons which will help in really cold weather.

And since the heater will be used to keep travelers warm during slow traffic, drivers are recommended to make sure the vehicle has plenty of gas.

California Highway Patrol officials said using alternate routes during a winter storm to avoid the traffic might make the situation worse.

“And if it is closed and your GPS is telling you to take a back road, that may be a bad idea,” said CHP Officer Clayton Nett.

While often helpful, phone map applications won’t know much about the road conditions on a side street or presumed short cut. And those roads are not a priority for plows, meaning what would have been an hour’s wait can turn into being trapped for much, much longer.

“The tow trucks up in this area aren’t able to get to you and get your vehicle out so you may be potentially be stranded there for a couple of days,” Nett warned.

Snowboarder and Kingvale resident Brian Bozack has lived in the area for years.

“You see some cars, and then you see some cars without chains, and the cars that don’t know they belong in this road, it creates havoc,” Bozack told FOX40.

During the last major snowstorm, Bozack said people trying to cheat the system when I-80 was closed turned to his neighborhood and Donner Pass Road which, for some, came with big consequences.

“We had two cars on this road abandoned overnight, they were there a couple of nights, and the people had to find shelter elsewhere,” Bozack recalled.

Winter travelers are advised to stick to the main roads in a storm and always be ready for anything or when they know a big storm is in the forecast, Caltrans offers additional advice.

“It’s probably not a good idea to travel,” Borrayo said.

Caltrans also offers its QuickMap app which is a real-time look at road closures and weather conditions so travelers can plan ahead.