Traffic nightmare as Caldor Fire forces evacuation of South Lake Tahoe – SF Gate

Traffic is gridlocked throughout most of South Lake Tahoe as the city rushes to evacuate ahead of the raging Caldor Fire.

Mandatory evacuation orders were imposed late Monday morning ahead of a red flag warning for gusting winds that is expected to last until 11 p.m. Wednesday. With highways 50, 88 and 89 all closed below the Tahoe Basin, people are being funneled out of town toward the Nevada state line. Anyone wishing to head toward Sacramento or the Bay Area cannot do it directly via Highway 50; they must drive north to connect up with I-80 near Truckee.

Evacuee Mel Smothers plays violin as he waits in a miles-long traffic jam on Hwy 50 as people evacuate ahead of the Caldor Fire on August 30, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe.

Evacuee Mel Smothers plays violin as he waits in a miles-long traffic jam on Hwy 50 as people evacuate ahead of the Caldor Fire on August 30, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan, a photojournalist for Getty Images, said the line of cars on Highway 50 hadn’t moved in over 45 minutes, while a photographer for the Press Democrat said he’d been stuck in gridlock for over 90 minutes. About 20,000 people live in South Lake Tahoe.

Traffic is backed up all the way down Lake Tahoe Boulevard up to Stateline, Nev. Live cameras show an occasional Cal Fire truck or ambulance headed in the mostly empty opposite direction; those lanes, though enticing for stand-still drivers, are needed for emergency traffic. Despite the conditions, Mercury News photographer Karl Mondon said people were remaining patient. 

“Mountain folk are damn tough,” he wrote on Twitter. “Despite horrible gridlock in South Tahoe as people evacuate #CaldorFire, everybody keeping their cool. Have heard no honking or cursing. One driver really embraced it all blasting Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire.'”

A pedestrian crosses the street as traffic backs up on Hwy 50 as people evacuate ahead of the Caldor Fire on August 30, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe.

A pedestrian crosses the street as traffic backs up on Hwy 50 as people evacuate ahead of the Caldor Fire on August 30, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Live updates can be found via the Twitter accounts for Caltrans District 3 and the County of El Dorado. Evacuation centers are available at:

Douglas County Community Center
1329 Waterloo Lane, Gardnerville, Nev.

Truckee Veterans Hall
10214 High St., Truckee, Calif.

If you are evacuating with an animal and have questions, you can call 530-621-5795.

Traffic backs up on Hwy 50 as people evacuate ahead of the Caldor Fire on August 30, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe.

Traffic backs up on Hwy 50 as people evacuate ahead of the Caldor Fire on August 30, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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