Thursday, February 7, 2019

Another round of snow predicted across the state starting Friday

Preparation key for everyone

By Mike Allende

Just as we're digging out from the snowfall in the Puget Sound region earlier this week, the National Weather Service is predicting another round of snow systems starting Friday and lasting through at least the weekend that could affect most of our state.
Our snow plows are working 24/7 throughout the state to plow and treat highways,
and drivers should give them plenty of room to work.

On the west side, the forecast is calling for anywhere from an inch along the coast to a few inches on the southwest and northwest interior, to 3-6 inches in the Puget Sound area, to 6 inches or more in the mountain passes. Central and eastern Washington are also expected to get snow and high winds, with blowing and drifting snow and difficult visibility a concern.

These are just projections by the NWS at this point, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Our crews will continue to pre-treat highways and plow and treat roads during the snow. We prioritize the highest-traveled routes, working to keep at least one lane as clear as possible. That said, if heavy snow is falling, there's only so much we can do and it will affect roadways. Roads will be slick, bridges/ramps/overpasses will be icy, collisions will increase and traffic will be challenging.
While crews will be working to clear roads, snow and ice events lead to high levels of
traffic congestion and drivers should plan plenty of extra time to their trips.

That's where you come in. In conditions like this, travelers must be sure they and their vehicles are prepared for winter conditions.

What does that mean?
  • Slow down. Seriously. We can't say this enough. Slow down. At these low temperatures, even if a road appears to be clear, it could be icy. With the low temperatures we've had this week, roads will also ice up quicker than normal once new rain or snow starts to fall. Other than not traveling at all, there is no better way to be safe in these conditions than lowering your speed and being cautious. And remember, 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive doesn't mean you can steer or stop better on ice.
  • In addition to slowing down, build in extra time for any travel. You and everyone else need to take it slow, so your normal commute time won't be enough. It's no fun leaving earlier than normal, but it's far better than worrying about your time while also dealing with snow and ice.
  • If you can, think about adjusting or cancelling weekend travel plans. Consider heading home a little earlier than usual Friday to ensure you get there before any snow starts falling, for example, or delay weekend plans to later in the month.
  • Be sure your vehicle is in good shape. Check your tires. Be sure you have a full tank of gas. Clear all the snow and ice off your vehicle, including your roof. Snow can fly off the back at other drivers or even fall forward and suddenly cover your windshield.
  • Give each other space. Increase following distance, work together, signal your intentions. Work to keep everyone safe.
  • Give road crews as much space as possible. This includes snow plows and emergency responders. It's safer for you and it's safer for them. And the safer they can work, the quicker they can get an incident cleared.
  • Be patient. Traffic could be slow. Crews may take a while to get to your area. Everyone is working hard, everyone wants to get where they're going safely. Take your time, set realistic expectations and remember that it's always better to get somewhere safely than quickly.
  • If mountain passes are in your travel plans, be aware that Washington State Patrol troopers will be doing chain enforcement. Have chains available, know how to put them on, and do so if the traction requirements call for it. Stay plugged in to conditions on our mountain pass page.
While our crews work to keep all highways clear, priority is given to the highest-traveled routes such as I-5.
Another few things to keep in mind:
  • There are some pretty large special events going on this weekend. Though Michelle Obama canceled her Friday appearance, Bob Seger (Saturday) and Justin Timberlake (Sunday and Monday) are still on at the Tacoma Dome and the Seattle RV show Friday-Sunday at CenturyLink Field Events Center. If you can take transit or carpool to the events, it would help, and be sure to add as much time as possible to your trip to get there.
  • Stay informed about road conditions, weather and any closures by using our online tools such as the our app, our travel alerts page, regional Twitter accounts and Facebook. Or keep it simple by calling 5-1-1- for travel conditions.
  • Keep in mind that we don't maintain every road in the state. Our jurisdiction is primarily state highways. While we coordinate with partners in local cities and counties, we don't typically maintain city and county streets and roads. If you have concerns about those areas, please contact those local jurisdictions.
  • If you get in a collision, your vehicle stalls out or for whatever reason you get stuck on a highway, please don't abandon your vehicle. It is never safe to walk on a state highway, especially in icy and snowy conditions. If possible, pull off the highway or to a shoulder and wait for law enforcement or an emergency responder to come assist you. Abandoned vehicles also hamper our ability to plow and keep roadways clear.
  • If you are unsure of your ability to drive on snow and ice, go with that feeling and if at all possible, don't travel during these storms. The safest thing you can do is to stay off the roads.
This has been a challenging week, and it could get even more challenging if we see a series of heavy snow events. We'll have crews working before and through any storms, but we also need your help. With some preparation and adjustments, we can all get through this weather event safely.