Drivers in mountains need to take extra precautions, be aware of citations

Jan 8, 2024, 6:08 PM

blizzard drivers...

Officials warn drivers to be cautious and make sure that their cars have enough traction for the roads when traveling along mountain passes this weekend. (Photo from Washington State Patrol)

(Photo from Washington State Patrol)

Some of the state’s mountain passes could be closed during this week’s storms and tire- and chain-restrictions will be in place on others. Currently, for those who drive through Snoqualmie Pass and White Pass, chains will be necessary except for drivers who have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) spokesperson Summer Derrey said state troopers are watching.

“Just in December, the (Washington) State Patrol issued close to 200 citations for drivers not chaining up on Snoqualmie Pass,” Derrey said.

More weather news: Blizzard warning issued for mountains, snow expected across the region

Derrey stated it’s a challenge for drivers to realize how important chains are when driving through the pass.

“This is somewhat of a remote location with a mountain pass, so weather changes minute-by-minute up there,” Derrey said. “In a town that can be bare and dry, we can get to the intensity of a snowstorm where it’s more than an inch per hour.”

Derrey said the snow at that level of elevation reduces visibility and causes poor driving conditions.

“The WSDOT crews do all we can to keep up with that storm,” Derrey said. “But it really comes down to drivers in them just kind of slowing down during poor conditions, giving extra safe distance between cars ahead of them behind them and making some common sense decisions.”

More from Micki Gamez: Major disruption ahead for Sound Transit riders

As of this writing, WSDOT is expecting more than an inch of snow per hour. KIRO Newsradio’s Ted Buehner said, through Tuesday night, expect between two and five feet of snow.

“You need to have chains in your vehicle, you need to know how to put them on,” Derrey said. “If you don’t have an all-wheel, you certainly need to go to those chain-up areas to take care of your vehicle, to make sure that you can safely get up and over the mountain paths. If you’re not prepared — just don’t go.”

Prepping an emergency kit in case you get stuck

If you want to get pre-made go kits, big box stores carry them. Also, a recent search on Amazon for “go kits” produced hundreds of results. You can make your own and fill it with items you think you would need, depending on your location.

“A typical go kit is going to have essentials,” Buehner said about kits earlier this year. “So food, water, medicines, cash, anything along those lines, it’s got everything you really need, when you need to take off, maybe some additional clothing. If it’s during the winter season, maybe some blankets and warm clothing and things along those lines.”

Prepping for the ‘big one’: Where to go and what to put in a go kit

For those who plan on driving the pass during the blizzard anyway, WSDOT posted a document with items to an emergency kit in case you get stuck. The list includes blankets, medications, cell phone chargers, warm socks and shoes, bottled water, snacks, jumper cables, a tool kit, a flashlight and flares. (The PDF is available to download here.)

You can read more of Micki Gamez’s stories here. Follow Micki on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Drivers in mountains need to take extra precautions, be aware of citations