This time of year, we keep a close eye on the weather. But keeping up with forecasts can only do so much. Especially in our mountain passes, the weather is going to do whatever it's going to do.
And that's what happened in the early evening of Wednesday, Nov. 30 when a sudden storm dropped about 4 inches of snow in an hour onto Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass. While our crews worked to keep up with the weather, the traction requirements changed rapidly due to the road conditions, ultimately requiring all vehicles except all-wheel drive to chain-up.
|A chain reaction collision led to a 7-hour closure of westbound I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass this week.|
Unfortunately, some drivers ignored this requirement, resulting in multiple collisions that closed I-90 in both directions at 7:30 p.m. Eastbound reopened to traffic just after 10:30 p.m., but westbound didn't reopen until 2:30 a.m. That made for a long night for travelers and responding aid crews.
All vehicles traveling over mountain passes need to be prepared. Carrying chains is always a good idea as conditions can change quickly and requirements may call for all vehicles to use them – even all-wheel drive. When faced with snow and ice on roadways, slow down and increase your distance between other vehicles.
It's vital that everyone comply with traction requirements and the variable speed limits. Traction requirements are made collaboratively between the Washington State Patrol and our crews, and are based on current road conditions and the weather. They aren't suggestions, they are requirements and are made for the safety of everyone.
|Multiple vehicles ignored messages requiring chains over I-90 Snoqualmie Pass,|
leading to several collisions and a full closure of the highway.
We all remember last winter. If it seemed like Snoqualmie Pass was closed a lot, well, it was! It was a record-breaking December up there, but what's interesting is that a majority of the closures weren't due to preventive avalanche control work; the closures were a result of collisions. And crashes on mountain passes can sometimes take hours to clear due to the severity, remote location, access to services, and limited space on the highway, especially at bridges.
So please, have chains available and know how to put them on. Be sure your vehicle is equipped for winter travel because you never know how long you might be stuck in bad weather. Check conditions on the pass. And ultimately, please, drive for winter weather conditions, slow down, be cautious, give each other space and obey the traction requirements posted on the electronic message signs.