I-17 101 traffic interchange

Prepare for next storm, traffic if heading to play in the snow Sunday

Prepare for next storm, traffic if heading to play in the snow Sunday

January 21, 2017

PHOENIX ‒ Planning a trip to play in the snow Sunday? Leave prepared for heavy traffic around popular snow-play sites and the potential for more winter weather to arrive as early as Sunday afternoon. 

Highway conditions can deteriorate quickly during severe weather as snow accumulates and drivers struggle, and closures can happen suddenly and be prolonged.

Your trip preparations should begin with packing a fully charged cellphone, drinking water, and winter coats, warm blankets or both. Among other winter driving tips at azdot.gov/KnowSnow, you should take: healthy snacks; gloves, scarves, caps and extra socks; necessary medications; an ice scraper; a flashlight with extra batteries; a small folding shovel for snow removal; and a small bag of sand or cat litter for wheel traction.

Plan your route and let someone know where you are going.

If you plan to visit snow-play areas along US 180 near Flagstaff, prepare to spend extended time in winter weather – and to face heavy traffic and delays getting back to Flagstaff that increase as the day goes on. The Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau lists the locations of all Flagstaff-area snow-play locations at FlagstaffArizona.org and offers a hotline at 844.256.SNOW with the latest snow conditions.

If you’re heading south from US 180 at day’s end, you can save time getting to Interstate 17 once you reach Flagstaff by taking a marked alternate route to Interstate 40 at Butler Avenue, via Switzer Canyon Drive and Route 66, then heading west to I-17.

Wherever you go, don’t park along highways or interstates or on freeway interchange ramps to play in the snow (the photo above shows vehicles parked on a ramp at the Interstate 17/Stoneman Lake Road interchange). That’s dangerous for you, other drivers and first responders. It exacerbates traffic congestion and makes it more difficult for the Arizona Department of Transportation’s snowplows to clear snow and ice. Park in designated areas away from highways.

The latest National Weather Service forecast for Arizona’s high country says the next winter storm is expected to enter the region as early as Sunday afternoon. It has the potential to produce significant snow and rain by late Sunday, though the exact timing remains uncertain.

Even if it isn’t snowing on your trip uphill, drive for conditions, slow down and avoid accelerating suddenly. Melting snow can turn into ice overnight, particularly around bridges. Leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one ahead to avoid sudden braking.

Give snowplows a wide berth, staying at least four car lengths behind. Never pass a snowplow that’s clearing a road. Remember: The safest place on the road when it’s snowing is behind a plow.

ADOT’s Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) and Facebook (facebook.com/AZDOT) accounts are excellent sources of information on traffic conditions, as is the ADOT Traveler Information site available at az511.gov or by calling 511.