With snow forecast, don’t overestimate your abilities, underestimate storm

Conditions can change quickly, stranding vehicles on highways

I-40 closures west of flagstaff after accidentPHOENIX – With snow forecast Saturday in Arizona’s high country and possibly reaching lower elevations than usual, please don't underestimate the power of a winter storm or overestimate your ability to negotiate highways covered with snow and ice.

Arizona Department of Transportation snowplows will be out in force, but driving conditions are expected to be hazardous during the storm. A highway can close suddenly if enough snow falls in a brief period or if there are crashes, slide-offs or both.

The safest decision when snow falls is delaying travel until the storm passes and highways have been cleared.

SUV hits snowplow on SR 89a during snowy conditionsBecause of the rapidly changing nature of snowstorms, road conditions and visibility can change in an instant. A couple of weeks ago, the Ash Fork Hill area along Interstate 40 west of Flagstaff got so much snow overnight from a storm predicted to only drop a few inches that the freeway closed temporarily. On Christmas Eve in 2016, vehicles lined up for miles were stuck on Interstate 40 west of Flagstaff overnight due to the heavy snowfall and a large number of crashes and slide-offs.

In addition to the obvious danger if your vehicle and others are stuck on or along a snow-covered highway, this also makes clearing the roadway much more difficult and time-consuming for ADOT’s snowplows.

Before deciding whether and when to travel, check weather reports and get the latest highway conditions by checking ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, calling 511 or reviewing ADOT’s Twitter feed (@ArizonaDOT). When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, a free app available at ADOTAlerts.com will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.

ADOT snowplow plowing US 180 Kendrick ParkIf delaying travel isn’t possible, leave prepared for the possibility that you’ll spend extended time in winter conditions. Pack an emergency kit with items like extra blankets, warm clothes, food and water, cat litter or sand for traction, a first-aid kit and a fully charged cellphone.

Slow down and drive for the conditions you’re in. Be sure to leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Give snowplows plenty of room to work. Avoid passing a plow until the driver pulls aside to let traffic by.

For more winter driving tips, visit azdot.gov/KnowSnow.