Inside the Story: Crews battle nature to keep Sierra highways open

CalTrans Superintendent Dave Wood has had a busy winter managing District 3 (Image courtesy CalTrans District 3 via Twitter)

No doubt about it -- this winter has been one for the ages, from record breaking amounts of snowfall to flooding to rock slides.

For road crews on Interstate 80, it's been a long, bitter battle against Mother Nature.

It’s especially been a long winter for the man who’s taxed with being the bearer of bad news, CalTrans District 3 Superintendent Dave Wood.

He looks a bit like a cowboy Santa Clause. And all winter long his sleigh bells have been chains slapping against the asphalt on I-80.

“If you don't look forward to winter up here, if you don't eat it with a knife and fork, you get a job somewhere else,” says Wood.

The face of CalTrans, Wood has created a bit of a storm himself on social media with his colorful appearance and painfully honest reports.

In one Twitter video, Wood emphatically tells drivers, “The speed limit is 30 miles per hour, not 65. If you drive your car on the roof, we can't keep this road open.”

Don't understand English? No problema. Wood does some of his posts in Spanish.

“If I spoke another language, I'd speak that one too. I'd speak in any language I can to get the word out, slow down and be safe,” Wood explains.

He almost always says thank you, and a smile usually peeks out from under his signature handlebar mustache, but nothing gets Dave's goat like unsafe drivers and truckers who don't follow the rules.

This winter he's had to be the bearer of bad news more times than he'd like to remember, but he weathers the storm and the motorist frustrations like a true pro.

He says, “You have to keep a smile on your face because if not, the pressure and the innate negativity of people being slowed down in traffic will eat you alive.”

There's no doubt, Dave's ready for sunshine and dry roads, but until the flakes stop flying, he asks that you drive safely and give his folks on the front lines a break.

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