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Don’t crowd the plows and other advice from WSDOT on driving in snow

Snow plows in Olympia. (City of Olympia)

The Washington State Department of Transportation has advice on how to stay safe when roads are snowy or icy.

Overnight snow, cold temps making for difficult commute

First let me say, I think the state and all the local DOT’s did a great job from Sunday into Monday. I had not seen a snow event that dumped 6 or more inches in the Convergence Zone that did not mess up the freeway, until Monday morning.

The workers got ahead of the storm and did a great job on the main roads. I asked WSDOT’s Deputy Maintenance Director Chris Johnson how they were able to pull it off. His answer: Hard work and good timing.

“We started looking at the staff we had in the south end and the need we had in the north end, and we were shifting trucks and people and resources,” Johnson said.

Since the storm sat in the north and left the south alone, the state was able to send in the cavalry.

School closings and delays
Mountain pass webcams

Johnson said that’s something they learned from last February’s big snow and ice storms — better communication across all agencies to attack the areas that need it most.  He expects that to continue the rest of the week, especially with the potential for hard refreezes. That’s why WSDOT will be focusing on keeping the freeway drains clear to give any melting water a place to go.

“If we have those ice ruts and if we have drains that are plugged, the runoff can’t get to those (drains),” Johnson said.  “That’s a potential for re-freeze.”

Johnson also said it’s up to the public to handle the conditions, too. Drivers need to be aware of what’s coming on their routes and manage their speeds and stopping distances. Complacency can be a killer.

“People tend to think that if it’s clear, and they come around a corner and they hit that ice spot that you didn’t anticipate,” Johnson said.

And for goodness sake, stay away from the trucks working to clear or treat the roads. Johnson said you should never tuck-in behind a DOT truck. You should leave a few hundred feet, and you should avoid sudden or unexpected movements around them. He said a driver decided to cut in front a maintenance truck Sunday night, and it did not go well.

“They started sliding a little bit, and they played bumper cars with one of our snow plows,” Johnson said. “You need to please, please, please give our crews room to work.  Don’t crowd the plows.”

We only have a few days of this left this week. Let’s all play our part.

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