Winter storm to create ‘difficult to impossible’ driving in high country

Safest option will be putting off travel when snow is falling

PHOENIX – With a major winter storm forecast by the National Weather Service to create “difficult to impossible” driving conditions in Arizona’s high country while dumping heavy rain elsewhere from Wednesday evening into Friday, drivers should heed this warning by leaving prepared, slowing down and being ready to put off travel while snow is falling.

During heavy snowfall, stretches of Interstate 17 and Interstate 40 at higher altitudes can close due to poor conditions, slide-offs and crashes. Drivers who decide against delaying travel when conditions worsen should be prepared to spend more time on the roads than usual and, in case they become stranded, pack an emergency kit with items like extra blankets, warm clothes, food and water, sand or cat litter for traction, a first-aid kit and a fully charged cellphone.

With 200 snowplows ready to clear snow and ice around the state, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s first priority during major storms is maintaining travel on the most heavily traveled corridors, meaning it may take some time for plows to address lesser-used highways.

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Drivers in the state’s lower elevations should prepare for rain and wet roadways while the storm is moving through. Key safety tips include slowing down on wet pavement, allowing extra braking distance behind vehicles you’re following and checking the condition of windshield wipers. Do not drive into flooded washes and avoid driving into low-lying areas where standing water has built up on the roadway.

Before deciding whether and when to travel, check weather reports and get the latest highway conditions by visiting ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at, calling 511 or reviewing ADOT’s Twitter feed (@ArizonaDOT(link is external)). When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, a free app available at is external) will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.

ADOT crews are ready to plow snow and ice on highways, but it can still be hazardous to drive in a storm where visibility and road surface conditions can change quickly. Drivers can help out plow operators by never passing a snowplow that’s clearing a highway until the driver pulls over to let traffic pass.

Make sure to slow down and drive for the conditions you’re in. Be sure to leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.