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As powerful storms arrive, do your research before highway trips

With back-to-back snowstorms bearing down on Arizona, know what you’re driving into before heading to the high country.

Highway conditions can deteriorate quickly during severe weather as snow accumulates and drivers struggle, and closures can happen suddenly and be prolonged. If enough snow falls, the Arizona Department of Transportation may close lesser-used highways while snowplows address busier routes.

Examples of the latter: If conditions warrant, ADOT may close US 180 northwest of Flagstaff, between milepost 224 west of Bader Road and milepost 248, and State Route 89A through Oak Creek Canyon (mileposts 386-397) to focus on Interstates 17 and 40 and other routes. In eastern Arizona, US 191 between Alpine and Hannagan Meadow (mileposts 231-253) isn’t plowed at night and on weekends. 

ADOT’s nearly 200 snowplows and 400 certified snowplow drivers are ready to deal with snow and ice, and tips for driving around snow and ice are available at azdot.gov/KnowSnow. But the safest decision during extreme weather is delaying travel until conditions improve and letting ADOT’s plows do their work.

So do your research, including staying up to date on National Weather Service forecasts. Before deciding whether to drive into areas where snow is expected or falling, motorists should get the latest on highway conditions and any closures from the ADOT Traveler Information Center, available at az511.gov or by calling 511. In addition, traffic cameras at az511.gov provide a view of conditions for those using desktop computers and laptops. ADOT’s Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) and Facebook (facebook.com/AZDOT) accounts are excellent sources of information and interaction on traffic conditions.

In addition to doing your research, here are some other tips for driving in challenging winter weather:

  • Slow down: Adjust speed to conditions.
  • Create space: Leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Avoid sudden braking.
  • Give snowplows room: Slow down and stay at least four vehicle lengths behind a plow. Wait for a plow to pull over before passing. The safest place to be when there’s snow and ice on a road is behind a snowplow.
  • Leave prepared: Bring extra clothing and gloves, make sure the gas tank is half to three-quarters full at all times, keep cellphones charged, and pack extra drinking water, snacks and all necessary medications.
  • Pack an emergency kit: It should include blankets, a flashlight, an ice scraper, a small shovel, a container of sand or cat litter for traction and warning lights or reflectors.
  • Beware of black ice: Melting snow can turn into ice, especially at night. Ice tends to form on bridges first and can be difficult to see.

For more tips, visit azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

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