With snow forecast Friday in Arizona’s high country, please don't take lightly the power and unpredictability of a winter storm as well as the potential for it to leave you stranded on a highway.
Arizona Department of Transportation snowplows will be out in force, but driving conditions are hazardous during winter weather. A highway can close suddenly if enough snow falls in a brief period or if there are crashes, slide-offs or both. That happened during Monday’s snowstorm, when northbound I-17 climbing out of the Verde Valley closed for several hours due to a serious crash.
The safest decision when snow falls is delaying travel until the storm passes and highways have been cleared. In addition to the obvious danger if your vehicle and others are stuck on or along a snow-covered highway, stranded vehicles also make clearing the roadway much more difficult and time-consuming for ADOT’s snowplows.
Before deciding whether and when to travel, check weather reports and get the latest highway conditions by visiting ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, calling 511 or reviewing ADOT’s Twitter feed (@ArizonaDOT). When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, our free app available at ADOTAlerts.com will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.
If delaying travel isn’t possible, leave prepared for the possibility that you’ll spend extended time in winter conditions. Pack an emergency kit with items like extra blankets, warm clothes, food and water, cat litter or sand for traction, a first-aid kit and a fully charged cellphone.
Those looking to head up north this weekend to play in snow should remember that highway shoulders are for emergencies only. In addition to endangering you and your passengers, parking on a highway shoulder to play in the snow can distract other drivers and interfere with first responders who may need to use the shoulder.
Those heading to popular snow-play areas should be prepared to spend significant time on the road, as traffic at day’s end is often heavy on highways including US 180 northwest of Flagstaff. Locations of designated snow-play areas around Flagstaff are available at flagstaffarizona.org/winter or by calling 1-844-256-SNOW.
Slow down and drive for the conditions you’re in. Be sure to leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
Give snowplows plenty of room to work. Avoid passing a plow until the driver pulls aside to let traffic by.
For more winter-driving tips, visit azdot.gov/KnowSnow.