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WSDOT's Winter Operations

Highway Snow and Ice Removal

During the winter months, WSDOT maintenance crews work around the clock to keep highways drivable and traffic moving by using salt and anti-icing compounds, or sand when temperatures fall too low for chemicals to work. Supervisors check weather reports and move equipment, materials, and personnel where needed most.

WSDOT crews start ice and snow removal on heavily-traveled state routes, clearing the far right lanes first.

Initial efforts are on areas where drivers are most at risk:

  • hills
  • curves
  • ramps
  • bridges
  • interchanges

It takes time to complete the work, especially if the storm conditions continue to produce low temperatures, ice, freezing rain and snow.

No one can guarantee ice and snow-free roadways, so motorists must always be cautious when driving in wet and cold weather. Remember, Ice and Snow, Take it Slow. 

Safe Travel around Snowplows

Snowplows are usually spreading anti-icing materials from the back of the truck and may need to stop or take evasive action to avoid stranded vehicles. If you find yourself behind a snowplow, stay behind it or use caution when passing. The road behind a snowplow will be safer to drive on.

  • Don't crowd the plow. Snowplows plow far and wide-sometimes very wide. The front plow extends several feet in front of the truck and may cross the centerline and shoulders during plowing operations.
  • Plows turn and exit the road frequently. Give them plenty of room. Stay back at least 15 car lengths (200 feet).
  • On multiple lane roads, watch for snowplows operating in either lane.
  • Snowplows can throw up a cloud of snow that can reduce your visibility to zero in less time than you can react. Drive smart. Never drive into a snow cloud - it could conceal a snowplow.
  • A snowplow operator's field of vision is restricted. You may see them but they may not see you.

Traffic Management

WSDOT Traffic Management Centers (TMC's) operate 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year. In the winter, a TMC is added at Snoqualmie Pass. At the TMC's, engineers and dispatchers have the tools and technology to manage and dispatch winter roadway crews where they are needed most. They view traffic cameras, monitor Washington State Patrol radio and post information on the overhead freeway signs, highway advisory radio, the 5-1-1 travel information line, Twitter and e-mail updates.

During significant and long-term storm events, WSDOT operates several Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) to expedite the movement of resources to areas of critical need, and assist with emergency response.