The street as soon as carried stagecoaches throughout the Gold Rush, twisting its means via what’s now a nationwide forest and an space of the Sierra Nevada identified for snowmobiling.
In the winter, the rugged passage, referred to as the Quincy-La Porte Road or County Road 511 in Plumas County, Calif., is closed.
But Wendy Becktold, an editor from the Bay Area who was on her solution to go to an ailing relative in Reno, Nev., on Monday, mentioned that she had been unaware of that when she navigated her rented Toyota Corolla onto the backcountry street throughout a record-setting snowstorm.
Google Maps had guided her that means as a result of two main highways close to Lake Tahoe had been shut down, she recounted in an interview on Wednesday, echoing considerations of different drivers and public security officers about the potential hazards of relying too closely on GPS functions.
They mentioned that Google Maps and Waze, which can be owned by Google, together with different mapping applications, wouldn’t at all times account for seasonal street closures or treacherous terrain, emphasizing non permanent street closures as a substitute.
“There were a lot of cars behind us,” Ms. Becktold mentioned. “Clearly, Google Maps was routing everyone the same way.”
Ms. Becktold, 50, a senior story editor for Sierra, a journal revealed by the Sierra Club, mentioned she and her cousin had seen a tree limb on a energy line and had handed many cabins as they unknowingly pressed on. They had stopped to place chains on their tires. Then, a employee in a security vest waved them off, mentioned Ms. Becktold, who lives in Berkeley, Calif.
“He said, ‘Everybody just keeps showing me their phones,’” Ms. Becktold recalled. “He was just like exasperated.”
A Google Maps spokeswoman mentioned in a assertion on Wednesday that the tech firm was taking steps to offer drivers with correct route data.
“In light of the unpredictable conditions from the current snowstorm, our team is working as quickly as possible to update routes in the Lake Tahoe area using details from local authorities.” the spokeswoman, Madison Gouveia, mentioned. “We currently show a winter storm warning to alert drivers in the area, and encourage everyone to stay alert and attentive.”
Google Maps didn’t reply questions on what sort of safeguards for drivers it makes use of, together with warnings about winter street closings or unpaved roads. SFGate.com earlier reported the white-knuckle detours.
In Washoe County, Nev., which incorporates Reno, a household of 5 from Southern California was stranded for 2 hours on Monday night time when their rented pickup truck received caught in the snow on a two-lane filth street, the county sheriff’s workplace mentioned.
The household had sought an alternate route on the solution to go to relations for the holidays in Truckee, Calif., throughout the storm, which closed an 81-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and contributed to the snowiest December in the Sierra on document.
More than 17 toes of snow had fallen throughout the month as of Thursday, in response to the Central Sierra Snow Lab of the University of California, Berkeley. The storm additionally closed Highway 50 for about 50 miles in the Sacramento Valley and the Lake Tahoe Basin earlier than it and I-80 reopened.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office mentioned that the household had ignored illuminated warning indicators telling drivers to not use the Dog Valley-Henness Pass Roads.
“However, the family’s GPS won the battle of which technology to listen to,” the sheriff’s workplace mentioned in a Facebook put up on Tuesday, including that the household had been rescued.
It was not clear what GPS software the household had been utilizing.
In a public warning final week, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office mentioned that drivers had steadily taken the identical detour when utilizing GPS. From November 2020 to final February, emergency responders had been referred to as to 11 rescues, in response to the sheriff.
Raquel Borrayo, a spokeswoman for Caltrans, California’s state transportation division, mentioned in an e-mail on Wednesday that the company had tried to bolster that overreliance on GPS apps might be dangerous.
“When people try to use mapping apps like Waze or Google Maps to avoid highway closures, they can sometimes be put in very precarious and dangerous situations with unplowed roads/dirt roads, heavy amounts of snow and zero cellphone service,” Ms. Borrayo mentioned. “We always tell people to stay on highways and find alternate routes that way vs. using rural roads. We also recommend people just stay put and wait until the interstate or highway closure has been lifted.”
During this week’s storm, a number of individuals posted display screen photographs on Twitter of Google Maps and Waze instructions sending customers to the Henness Pass Road, which the Sierra County Historical Society describes as a secluded and winding mountain street that rises to an elevation of 6,920 toes. The street, a major emigrant path from Virginia City, Nev., is “left off many maps,” in response to a description on the historic society’s web site.
The Donner Pass, named for the doomed snowbound pioneer household, a few of whom resorted to cannibalism throughout the 1840s, is about 40 miles from the detour.
A spokeswoman for Waze mentioned in an e-mail on Thursday that the firm was dedicated to serving to drivers navigate effectively and safely.
“In light of this week’s snowstorm and changing weather conditions, Waze Community Map Editors continue to keep our maps updated with the latest real-time routing information,” the spokeswoman, Caroline Bourdeau, mentioned. “We encourage drivers to exercise caution and to stay alert on the road,”
Waze has a filter that enables drivers to keep away from unpaved roads.
Crystal A. Kolden, a geographer and catastrophe scientist who teaches at the University of California, Merced, mentioned she couldn’t consider it when she noticed that Google Maps had advised Henness Pass and different backcountry roads to drivers in search of options to I-80.
“They’re barely drivable in the summer,” Professor Kolden mentioned on Wednesday. “How reliable do these companies have an ethical responsibility to be?”
Professor Kolden, 44, who was at her dwelling close to Sonora, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra throughout the storm, criticized Google maps on Twitter. Some commenters mocked her put up, saying that drivers ought to take duty for monitoring circumstances and that she seemed like a Prius-driving millennial.
“Blaming vulnerable people for going down the wrong road is the same as blaming some of those poor vulnerable people who drowned in their basement apartments in New York City not long ago,” she mentioned in an interview, referring to lethal flooding in September.
On Wednesday, Google Maps confirmed crimson dots with dashes in them on the street that Ms. Becktold had taken throughout her circuitous journey on Monday. The street closure warnings hadn’t been there two days earlier, she mentioned.
“It wasn’t like we were just frolicking along, looking for a day in the snow,” Ms. Becktold mentioned.
Ms. Becktold mentioned she had no alternative however to return to Berkeley when she had been about 150 miles into the 200-mile journey. Her cousin, who had been attempting to achieve her ailing brother in Reno, ultimately resorted to flying from San Francisco to Reno — via Los Angeles, she mentioned.
“It seems kind of silly in this day and age,” she mentioned, “that there can’t be clearer information online that these roads are closed.”