Severe weather could mean treacherous road conditions

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Severe weather could mean treacherous road conditions

OLYMPIA – Weather conditions tonight, tomorrow and into Thursday are shaping up to make roadway conditions potentially treacherous, the Washington State Department of Transportation said today.

Weather forecasts call for heavy snow and freezing temperatures Wednesday and Thursday, including double-digit snow accumulations and below-freezing temperatures in urban areas from Bellingham to Portland. There is also warning of conditions worsening this evening’s commute in the Puget Sound convergence zone just north of Seattle, including new snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches.

Drivers should prepare for hazardous conditions on interstates and secondary roads, with impassible conditions on the more outlying roadways, WSDOT said. For some, being prepared may mean staying off the roads.

“I can’t emphasize enough to people the importance of gathering information available on weather forecasts and road conditions to make the best decision before venturing out,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “Our crews will be out there plowing and treating the roads, but we need drivers to do their part and prepare for really challenging travel conditions.”

When snow and cold temperatures mix with heavy commutes, drivers should expect significant backups and potential lengthy delays.

WSDOT’s 1,250 maintenance personnel are using nearly 500 pieces of equipment statewide, working shifts 24/7 to treat and plow roadways. Roads are cleared on a priority basis, with interstate highways and major arterials first in line, followed by more rural roadways.

“We have all our resources deployed for this series of storms, but recognize that every storm is different,” said Chris Christopher, WSDOT director of maintenance operations. “We have been treating roadways and plowing nonstop, but the effectiveness of our preparations may be limited by fast-changing weather conditions.”

Drivers are urged to use caution and drive for conditions, especially large trucks and buses. Just one collision can lead to a chain-reaction, resulting in extremely long commute times.

WSDOT said these are things drivers can do:

· Drivers can prepare for snow and ice by checking travel and roadway conditions on the WSDOT website and packing winter weather supplies, including tire chains.

· For travelers or non-travelers, that means it is decision time. Staying in? Have a full tank of gas, just in case. Going out? Pack tire chains and a winter car kit and drive for conditions.

During the day today, road closures have been intermittent and limited to the mountain passes on I-90 and US 2 as crews perform avalanche-control work. State Route 504, better known as Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, is now closed for the winter season.

Know before you go

WSDOT offers several ways to get up-to-date weather, traffic and construction information before hitting the road.

· WSDOT's website experienced slowdowns due to significant traffic from quadruple normal use. Technicians are working on the site, so keep trying.

Carry chains and know the traction and chain requirements.

Call 511. WSDOT’s driver information phone line provides real-time traffic, incident and closure information. Out-of-state callers can dial 1-800-695-ROAD (7623). TTY users can call 1-800-833-6388.

Sign up for email updates and social media tools such as Facebook.

Follow traveler information on Twitter @wsdot, @wsdot_traffic, @wsdot_passes, @wsdot_tacoma, @SnoqualmiePass.

WSDOT keeps people, businesses and the economy moving by operating and improving the state's transportation systems. To learn more about what we're doing, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/news for pictures, videos, news and blogs. Real time traffic information is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic or by dialing 511.

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