Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to find out the condition of the mountain passes...

Winter is upon us, not officially, but mother nature has decided it's definitely time to start snowing in the mountain passes.  When this snow happens and the weather changes one of the most asked questions we get is "how do I decide if it's safe to drive over the pass" and "which pass should I take?" 

We can't tell you which pass is better to go over at any specific time, pass conditions change rapidly and unexpectedly.  In addition, the terrain and traffic on each three major mountain pass highways is quite different. I-90 Snoqualmie Pass is what can be described as a more urban highway – more traffic, multiple lanes in each direction, divided in most areas. US 2 Stevens  Pass and US 12 White Pass are more rural (not as much traffic, one lane in each direction, not divided/no median, etc.)

Here’s what you can do. Take that info, along with help to know how to be prepared to get there and add in the latest conditions to make the wisest choice. Here's a few tips on how to get over the pass and where to find out the latest information on mountain pass conditions.

First: Be prepared
  • Are your tires properly inflated.
  • Do you have enough gas in the tank, you may end up sitting waiting for other vehicle spinouts to clear or even avalanche control.
  • Is your cellphone fully charged, do you have a spare battery or a car charger just in case
  • Have you recently gotten a vehicle winter maintenance check-up for your vehicle?  You'd be surprised how many people get stuck because their cars engine or  isnt' ready for the journey.
  • Do you have food, water, blankets if you do get stranded and have to wait for an emergency vehicle to come assist you.
  • If you prefer a checklist, the Take Winter By Storm website has some fantastic preparedness checklists.
Secondly: Know where to find the latest info
  •  Check any one of the mountain pass pages on our website.
  • If you have an Android or iPhone, download our mobile app by searching "wsdot" in the market place.  If you have a blackberry or other web enabled mobile device check out our website for small screens.
  • Dial 511.
  • Sign up to have pass reports delivered to your inbox.  Word of warning however, pass reports update every couple of hours so it could end up being a lot of emails.  On the other hand, you will be very well informed as to the changing pass conditions.
Most importantly, drive for conditions. By planning ahead and taking your time getting over the passes and you should arrive to your destination safely.