Man drives 15 hours, 1,000 miles, to get home after rare CA snowfall creates traffic nightmare

Gas stations are running out of gasoline, and food is getting harder to come by for stranded tourists in the Lake Tahoe area.

ByJ.R. Stone via KGO logo
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
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Snow has caused major traffic delays for those trying to leave Tahoe, so much so, that a Bay Area man drove the long way home - nearly 1,000 miles.

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- As a powerful winter storm swept through central and northern California, leaving multiple highways closed and holiday travelers stranded, one desperate driver embarked on an epic 1000-mile journey to get home.

Josef de la Vega was holidaying with his girlfriend in the Lake Tahoe ski resort area over the Christmas weekend.

As reports of road closures, traffic backups, accidents, and delays on key highways filtered through, he feared he and his girlfriend may not make it back to the Bay Area in time.

So, they decided to take a roundabout but still faster way home.

They left Reno by driving east and then south nearly all the way to Las Vegas, through Bakersfield, and eventually back to Castro Valley - a 15-hour, nearly 1,000-mile ride home that ended at 1:15 a.m. Tuesday.

"I just told her, unless you stay here we have no other choice, we got to get around this because we can't afford to miss work and stuff like that," said De La Vega, who made it to his two jobs. His girlfriend, who is a nurse, made it to her job at Stanford.

Other travelers weren't as fortunate.

Though some highways had opened up after the storm passed through, the snow made for major delays, backups and accidents.

Marcela Cardona, who was also trying to leave the Tahoe region, Zoomed with our sister station KGO-TV as she sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic along Highway 50 near South Lake Tahoe late Tuesday morning.

"I'm in this car and it's literally not moving," said Cardona, who was trying to get back to San Francisco.

Her story is similar to that of so many others who were moving a matter of feet per hour.

Some gas stations in the region have run out of gasoline, and food was even hard to come by for some trying to get back home who are stuck.

"We're probably going to be stranded. A lot of the gas stations we went to were all out of gas, Chevron 76," said Emily Kelbatyrov of Sacramento.

The hope now, "I'm with all my family so we're just butting heads. I just hope we can get home by today," said Kelbatyrov.

"I would recommend, just stay in San Francisco," said Cardona.