The drive to Mammoth takes most guests through desolate desert areas. Although this may seem like easy driving, wind and flash flooding are serious risks during some times of the year. Wind can be especially dangerous when we have kayaks, gear or roof racks attached to our vehicles or if we are driving tall vehicles or pulling trailers.
Driving in Heavy Winds
The wide open desert spaces and valleys that lead guests to Mammoth are commonly affected by dangerous wind. The following tips can help keep you on the road and safe if you encounter heavy winds. 1. Anticipate gusts. Take special care when driving through deserts and valleys that are prone to strong winds. The dramatic land forms along 395 make the road particularly gusty. 2. Take it slow. Its easier to control your vehicle in windy or gusty conditions when you drive more slowly than usual. 3. Notice larger vehicles. Be aware of large vehicles on the road such as tractor-trailers, toy haulers and RVs. They are more susceptible to high winds and drivers may have difficulties staying in their lanes. The best idea is to avoid them if at all possible. 4. Keep a firm grip on the wheel. Keep both hands on the wheel in case the wind begins to move your vehicle, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer. 5. Follow Caltrans signs and advisories. Caltrans will post high wind warning signs and advisories in areas of high wind and during wind events. Sometimes vehicles types will be limited and RVs and campers will be restricted. Please consult Caltrans road conditions reports and signage.
Driving in Heavy Rain
In addition to the potentially poor visibility that accompanies most heavy rain, be aware of the risk of sliding or hydroplaning that can be common on wet desert roads. Hydroplaning can make steering and braking difficult and could even lead to losing control of your vehicle. Follow these tips to help you stay safe while driving in heavy rain. 1. Take your time. Since rain is rare in the California desert, oils build up making wet roads even slicker than drivers expect. Slowing down is the only way to keep your vehicle from sliding around on these slick surfaces. Also remember that one of the most dangerous times to drive is soon after it begins to rain, as oils on roadway make for slick conditions. Consider stopping in at a rest stop or restaurant or coffee shop and waiting a few minutes, rather than rushing to your destination to give the roads a chance to clear. 2. Turn your lights on. Turn your headlights on to help other vehicles see you. Many states require the use of headlights during rain, even in broad daylight. 3. Make sure your car is rain-ready. Prior to your trip check your tires, windshield wipers and lights to make sure they are in good working order. If wipers are more than one year old, they may need to be replaced. Tires should be checked to ensure proper tread depth. Also make sure pressure is correct for each tire.Check vehicle lights as they should be turned on whenever windshield wipers are in use, as required by law. 4. Be aware of the risk of flash floods. Deserts, and desert roads are susceptible to flash flooding. Never drive through standing water because it is impossible to tell how deep it is.
Mary Beth is the rental manager for Sonenalp at Canyon Lodge, Mammoth Lakes. In her spare time she runs a ranch, loves a test pilot, and raises 4 boys & a Rhodie rescue.