PHOENIX ‒ Winter’s worst is still ahead as the El Niño weather pattern promises above-normal precipitation, but with storm systems heading into Arizona starting this weekend, travelers should prepare for rain, snow, strong winds and the potential for blowing dust.
As of Friday morning, the National Weather Service was calling for locally strong winds reaching up to 55 mph across eastern Arizona, followed by colder temperatures and scattered rain and snow continuing into Saturday. Between 2 and 5 inches of snow was expected in the White Mountains, eastern Mogollon Rim and northern Gila County, with higher totals possible.
A second, colder storm system was forecast to pass through next week, creating the potential for 1 to 4 inches of snow in higher elevations.
With public safety its top priority during winter storms, the Arizona Department of Transportation deploys resources quickly before, during and after to keep highways safe for travelers, limit highway closures and clear snow and ice as soon as possible. ADOT’s 200 snowplows are serviced and ready, and 450 snowplow operators are trained and on alert.
Because of Arizona’s diverse climate, travelers can drive from sunny and moderate conditions in the low desert to ice and snow in the mountains in just a couple of hours. They should leave prepared to drive in snowy and icy conditions.
With that in mind, ADOT offers these tips:
- Slow down, be patient and drive safely. Plan for extra travel time. Use extra caution if snowplows are on the road.
- Wear warm clothing.
- Be aware that ice forms on bridges first and is hard to see.
- When driving behind a snowplow, stay back at least four car lengths. If you think you’re traveling too close to a plow, you probably are.
- Never pass a snowplow that’s clearing snow and ice off the road.
- Make sure your tank is at least three-quarters full.
- Notify someone of your route, destination and expected arrival time.
- Pack an emergency preparedness kit that includes blankets, extra clothes, a flashlight, an ice scraper, a shovel, sand for traction, a fully charged cellphone and hazard warning lights or reflectors.
- Brake slowly to avoid panic braking or jerking the steering wheel.
- Increase the distance between you and traffic ahead.
- Carry plenty of food and water, as well as any medications you need.
- Carry tire chains and snow cables, or use snow tires.
Before heading out, drivers can call 5-1-1 or visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Center at az511.gov, which features real-time images along highways that provide a glimpse of weather conditions in various regions. ADOT’s Twitter feed (@ArizonaDOT) is another great resource.