ADOT gears up for winter storm season; snow removal top priority

Drivers encouraged to ‘Know Snow’ and prepare for winter driving this weekend

PHOENIX —Do you “Know Snow in Arizona?” If not, now is the time to get ready for the winter driving season.

As the first significant winter storm rolls into the state this weekend, delivering snow to high country areas, the Arizona Department of Transportation has been getting ready to respond to keep motorists safe while clearing snow and ice from highways.

The National Weather Service is forecasting up to three inches of snowfall at the 5,500- to 8,000-foot elevation, including 3-6 inches of snow possible above 8,000 feet due to a cold front moving into northern Arizona, beginning tonight and into Saturday.

Public safety is ADOT’s top priority during winter storms. ADOT resources are quickly deployed before, during and after storms to keep state highways safe for travelers. The department’s goal is to limit highway closures, and to clear snow and ice as soon as possible. To date, ADOT’s 214 snowplows are serviced and ready, 450 snowplow operators are trained and on alert, and maintenance yards are stocked with deicer materials and equipment.

ADOT’s yearly budget for snowplowing and winter storm maintenance is between $4 million and $8 million, depending on the severity of the winter season. This budget includes labor costs, equipment expenses, fuel and deicing agents.

Because of Arizona’s diverse climate, travelers can find themselves driving from the sunny, moderate climate of the low desert to ice and snow in the state’s mountain regions in just a couple of hours. Winter weather conditions can quickly cause havoc with travel plans and businesses. Motorists need to be prepared for hazardous driving in snowy and icy conditions — and they need to watch for snowplows on the road. With that in mind, ADOT recommends the following winter driving tips:

  • Slow down, be patient and drive safely. Plan for extra travel time. Use extra caution around snowplows.
  • Be alert: ice forms on bridges first and is hard to see.
  • When driving behind a snowplow, stay back at least four car lengths. If you think you’re traveling too close to a plow, you probably are. Be safe and stay back!
  • Never pass a snowplow that’s in the process of clearing snow and ice off the road.
  • Maintain at least a three-quarter-full tank of gas.
  • Notify someone of your travel route, destination and projected arrival time.
  • Carry an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle that includes blankets, extra clothes, a flashlight, an ice scraper, a shovel, sand for traction, a fully charged cell phone, and hazard warning lights or reflectors.
  • Brake slowly to avoid any panic braking or jerking the steering wheel.
  • Increase the distance between you and the traffic ahead.
  • Carry plenty of food and water, and all necessary medications.
  • Carry tire chains and snow cables, or use snow tires.
  • Wear warm clothes to protect you during extended time periods in cold temperatures.

Additional information can be found on ADOT’s “Know Snow” website at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

Before heading out on the roads, drivers are encouraged to call 5-1-1 or log on to ADOT’s Traveler Information Center at az511.gov for the latest highway conditions around the state. The website features real-time images along state highways that give drivers a glimpse of weather conditions in various regions. ADOT’s Twitter feed is a great resource for travelers, too.