Ill-prepared drivers run into trouble on their way through the snowy foothills

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COLFAX, Calif. (KTXL) -- It was not hard to tell what people thought of the state of affairs along eastbound Interstate 80 through Colfax on Thursday.

Headed back to Reno from Sacramento, Frank Saldana said he initially thought he was in good shape to handle January's first big storm with his truck stocked with a set of chains.

"Actually, I had them for two years already," Saldana told FOX40.

But he never had a reason to use them until Thursday. The trouble was when the time came, he was told they were the wrong size.

So, Saldana had to come out of pocket again for the safety gear he was sure he had already checked off his checklist.

"It's not four-wheel drive, it's two-wheel drive,” said Kevin Ramos from Lincoln.

That little misunderstanding about the capabilities of his Ford F-150 left Ramos in the company of hundreds of others stopped in Colfax to check for their readiness to handle the rough terrain ahead.

He and his girlfriend used their time waiting for someone to install chains as a snowy selfie moment. And since their trip to Truckee was supposed to be all about fun, they saw no point in stressing out.

"It's my birthday, so I got to make things happen," Ramos told FOX40.

It was all smiles for the people chaining up those caught off guard when they thought about the money. But even they brought up the difficulties that come with harsh weather conditions.

“Tell your kids make sure they finish college so they don't end up being a chain monkey like this, in the middle of the snow, laying on the ground all day,” a man helping drivers install chains told FOX40.

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First 2020 snow day for locals

“Got off work and I come home and there’s a berm to get in my driveway. So, I have to shovel it out to get in,” said Tim Munson.

Munson said he knew his 20 minutes of labor Thursday was not going to be easy.

“It’s a workout, especially at the end of the day,” he told FOX40.

But that was nothing compared to the time Hilda Luna, of Pollock Pines, said she put into clearing her driveway.

“Maybe one hour and a half,” she said. “Yeah, a lot of work.”

Starting early Thursday, a consistent storm brought well over a half-foot of powder to the Pollock Pines area. It was the first major storm of the new year for a town that sits under 4,000 feet in elevation.

By nightfall, Highway 50 saw fewer and fewer cars as chain controls limited who could and could not drive up.

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