Auto insurance

Snowy passes expected for Thanksgiving drivers

Tuesday, November 14, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

Woman mounts snow chains on her carThanksgiving travelers who cross mountain highways next week will encounter snow, according to extended forecasts, so plan now to help ensure a safe trip.

All of Washington's highways across the Cascades, as well as Oregon's Siskiyou Summit, expect subfreezing temperatures and plenty of precipitation through Thanksgiving weekend. Even Snoqualmie Pass, the lowest major crossing at 3,022 feet, expects nighttime temperatures in the 20s and a daytime high of just 33 degrees between now and Nov. 25.

Historical data shows Washington and Oregon roads clog up badly around Thanksgiving. If you're one of those who will venture over the mountains, expect delays, and note the times for typically heavy congestion. On I-90, WSDOT says you can expect the worst:

  • Wednesday, eastbound from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m.; westbound 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

  • Saturday, eastbound from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.; westbound 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

  • Sunday, eastbound from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; westbound 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

WSDOT crews work to clear a snowslide on I-90 alongside Lake KeechelusSnoqualmie Pass travelers should enjoy a smoother commute, thanks to the opening of the second of two I-90 avalanche bridges. The new westbound bridge opened to traffic Nov. 6. It parallels the eastbound span that opened last year. Together, they allow motorists – 28,000 on a normal day – to drive above snowslides that used to plague travelers at the site of the old Lake Keechelus snowshed (see photo).

If you drive on snow infrequently, brush up on these winter-travel tips:

  • 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive boost traction when accelerating, but they're no better at stopping. Don't get overconfident. As our Claims VP likes to say, "An SUV on ice is nothing more than a 4,000-pound hockey puck."

  • Slow down and anticipate intersections, offramps, bridges, and shaded roadways. Your stopping distance is much longer on snow and ice.

  • Stay behind snowplows, even if it delays you a little. The pavement behind them is safer; by passing you risk poor traction and the chance you'll get whacked by sand and gravel flying off the snowplow blade.

  • Sign on snowy highway says CHAINS REQUIREDDrive with extra caution around chain-up areas, where people are vulnerable while crouched outside their vehicles.

  • Learn what traction advisories mean – in extreme weather, even 4WD vehicles must chain up.

Middle photo courtesy WSDOT

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