College students and holiday travelers may face difficult driving conditions while trekking across the state, as meteorologists predicted Thursday that as much as 2 feet of snow would fall on some of Washington’s mountain passes by Friday morning.
Westbound Interstate 90 closed briefly near Cle Elum on Thursday evening after multiple spinout collisions in the snow, which likely won’t let up until late Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle. A winter storm warning is in effect until 10 a.m. for the Cascades.
With finals week wrapping up at universities and the holidays approaching, it’s a good time for drivers to review safety advice offered by the Washington State Patrol, the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the National Weather Service:
- Check the latest updates on the mountain passes before you go. WSDOT posts statewide travel alerts and road conditions at wsdot.com/traffic.
- Clear snow and ice from car surfaces before driving. Snow on the hood can blow toward the windshield and block your view.
- Make sure you have the proper equipment, including chains, spare parts, jumper cables, extra blankets, food and water.
- Keep your fuel tank and your wiper-fluid reservoir at least half full.
- Keep your cellphone fully charged.
- If you need to pull over, stay with your vehicle. Call for help or hang a colorful piece of cloth from your window or antenna.
- Turn your headlights on.
- Even when roads are dry, watch out for icy bridges.
- Stay far behind the car in front of you so you have enough room to stop.
- Don’t use cruise control.
- Use brakes sparingly to avoid skidding. Don’t pump anti-lock brakes to stop.
- Slow down and take it easy.
“The main thing is to take it sloooooow,” said State Patrol spokesman Rick Johnson, drawing out the last word for emphasis. He’s been giving that advice for 28 years, he said — and it bears repeating every late fall and winter.
If you have a choice of which route to take, Snoqualmie Pass may be your best bet: It’s expected to get an additional 4-6 inches of snow by about 10 a.m. Friday, said meteorologist Steve Reedy with the weather service in Seattle. At Stevens Pass, 12-18 inches is expected, and White Pass is anticipating 18-24 inches.
That’s on top of what the passes have seen in days past. Snoqualmie Pass saw around 8 inches of snow from Wednesday to Thursday evening, according to the weather service.
Reedy said those who can put off their travel until midday Friday would be wise to do so, although there may be scattered showers after.
“If they can avoid this weather, they should,” he said.
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Seattle Times reporter Asia Fields contributed to this report.