Be in the know before you go play in the snow

Anyone else addicted to the Flagstaff webcam?

You don’t know what we’re talking about? Check out flagstaffarizona.org/webcam. It’s so cool. It gives a 360-degree view of the downtown area and allows the watcher to control it.

In full disclosure, the West Valley View news editor is probably hooked on it because her baby boy is a freshman at Northern Arizona University, unlike those of you who watch it for the snow. She grew up in Michigan, after all, snow isn’t exactly an oddity for her.

But after living in the Valley of the Sun for close to 20 years now, driving in the fluffy, and sometimes not so fluffy, white stuff is.

Someone who didn’t think twice about driving a compact car in a torrential downpour in Michigan now dreads the thought of tootling around in her SUV when the slightest possibility of rain is forecast.

And she’s not the only one. The Arizona Department of Transportation doesn’t post messages such as “Weather warning: Possibility of rain” on its overhead freeway signs because we’re all so experienced at driving in wet, slippery conditions. Truth is, most of us don’t excel at driving in the rain, forget about snow.

But now that Flagstaff has over 3 feet, it’s the place to be for winter fun. Yep, the quaint little town that’s only a two-hour or so drive from most of us got over 36 inches of snow from three storms in six days. It’s being hailed as “Snowmageddon” and is in 10th place among biggest storms since 1899, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. Arizona Snowbowl, Flagstaff’s ski resort, is up to almost 8 feet!

So naturally, we all want to zip up there with our saucer sleds and snow skis and tear it up.

But before we throw our duffel bags and snow toys in the car and blast out of the Valley, the Arizona Department of Transportation has some suggestions for safely getting us to our destination.

First off, we need to know what to pack. In addition to our toboggans and snowboards, ADOT recommends packing a fully charged cellphone; drinking water; winter coats, warm blankets or both; healthy snacks; gloves, scarves, caps and extra socks; necessary medications; an ice scraper; a flashlight with extra batteries; a small folding shovel for snow removal; and a small bag of sand or cat litter for wheel traction.

Do any of us even own an ice scraper? Some probably do, maybe those who recently moved here from a colder climate where an ice scraper comes standard with every vehicle. But those of us who were born here or have lived here for any substantial length of time probably don’t because we rarely have occasion to use one. It’s a necessity in high country, even if we’re only spending a day or two there.

We should also plan our route in advance and notify someone of our route, destination and projected arrival time. We should also fill up our gas tanks and keep them at no less than three-quarters full at all times.

Next up, ADOT reminds us to take our time on the drive, even if it’s not snowing, because melting snow can turn to ice, especially around bridges. ADOT advises us to avoid accelerating suddenly and to leave plenty of room between our vehicle and the one in front of us to avoid sudden braking.

Once we reach our winter wonderland destination, we are to park in designated areas rather than along highways or interstates while playing in the snow. Parking along the side of the road is obviously dangerous for everyone, but it also worsens traffic congestion and makes it difficult for snowplows to do their jobs. Speaking of snowplows, ADOT also tells us to give them a wide berth, staying at least four car lengths behind, and to never pass one that’s clearing a road.

Finally, it’s a good idea to figure out where the snow play areas are before we get up there, and that information can be found at FlagstaffArizona.org.

The whole point of running up north once the snow falls is to have fun. Let’s not let impetuousness get in the way of that.

More winter driving tips can be found at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

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