Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tools for navigating the mountain passes this winter

We watch mountain passes closely this time of year as the weather can make getting across the state more than a little challenging. We are constantly working to develop tools to help travelers make their journeys as safely as possible, but not everyone is aware of all of the tools in our toolbox. Here is a run-down of what we have to offer to help making crossing the passes a little easier.

The mountain pass page on our website is a good place to start as it lists all of the passes and a map of their locations. You can select a specific pass, like Snoqualmie, and get further information such as the current weather conditions, camera views, and any restrictions that are currently in place.

On the pass page you can sign up for email alerts. Every time pass conditions change, you will be sent an email. A caveat to this method however, is that when the weather starts to act up, pass conditions can change rapidly and often which can mean a lot of emails in your inbox.

Another option available on the pass page is subscribing to the pass's RSS feed. You can find more information about RSS feeds and how to use them here. This is a great way to get up-to-date information without clogging up your email.

We have a specially formatted page for mobile devices you can use to check pass conditions before you head out.  And for those of you who are in the twitterverse, we have a bevy of exciting twitter features to help plan your trip.  You can follow our twitter account dedicated entirely to the mountain passes and get the pass conditions real-time as they are updated.

My favorite is our direct messaging feature. For those of you unfamiliar with the workings of Twitter, direct messages (aka DM) are private messages between two twitter users who are following each other. No one else on Twitter (or the internet for that matter) can see theses message. So in order for this feature to work you first need to follow our main WSDOT twitter account (NOT the pass account). Then we to have to follow you back. Once we are following your account, you can send us a direct message with a special code we have created for all of the passes.  Using the Snoqualmie example it would be "pass sno".  In about 3-4 minutes the current pass conditions will be tweeted back to you.  As a side note, this feature also works for travel times, border crossing wait times and aviation weather conditions. You can learn more about our twitter features on our web page dedicated to Twitter.

Another helpful resource we have put together for travelers is our winter driving tips page where we cover everything from what to put in an emergency car kit to how to travel around a snow plow. There is a ton of information here to help you get around in winter weather conditions.

It is our hope that with these tools at your disposal, you can Know Before You Go and make good decisions before you ever get into your vehicle.