On Monday, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) closed many roads across the state. According to the Billings Gazette, U.S. Highway 191 between Grass Range and Malta, U.S. Highway 12 running from Miles City to the North Dakota State line, and Montana Highway 7 from Wibaux to Alzada were closed last night because of snow drifts. Other highways were initially closed but soon reported. For example, Montana Highway 66 from Highway 191 to U.S. Highway 2 and Montana Highway 200 from Jordan to Brockway were both closed but later reopened.
One of the reasons for closing the roads was a winter storm warning was issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) through the northeastern part of the state through 11:00 p.m. Monday night. Similarly, a blizzard warning remained in effect until this morning at 6:00 a.m. in parts of North and South Dakota. A blizzard warning, according to the NWS, means harsh winter weather. This warning includes blowing snow with strong winds, poor visibility, likely leading to a whiteout situation. These conditions make travel very hazardous. When such a notice is in effect, the NWS encourages drivers to avoid travel.
Usually, MDT officials will close roads when the roads are too dangerous to use. Winter storm and blizzard warnings can make driving perilous for even the most experienced drivers. The icy winter conditions are expected to continue throughout the state in the near future. The eastern part of the state is expected to experience strong winds and possible whiteout conditions.
We have written a series of articles this winter season reminding drivers to utilize the utmost caution when driving under such challenging conditions. However, we have never specifically addressed the issue of blizzard driving. Obviously, a number of these tips will resemble some of the other suggestions we have offered. It is always good to brush up on many of these tips to remember what to do in the case of severe winter driving.
- Ensure your tires are up to snuff. This includes being sure they are inflated all the way and that they are ready to drive in the snow. There is nothing worse than taking to the road on bald tires.
- Even if you have all-wheel-drive, don’t overdo it! Barrelling down the highway believing that you are safe because of your all-wheel-drive is not safe.
- Don’t speed up or slow down too quickly. When the roads are slick, any sudden motion like the one caused by coming to a quick stop or trying to drive too fast can let the ice take the inertia, and cause you to slide.
- Make sure your lights are functioning. Especially in a whiteout, your lights need to be turned on so that other cars on the road can see you. If one of your brake lights or one of your headlights is not working, it lessens the chances of someone seeing you during a whiteout.
- Be sure your tank has sufficient gas.
- Be sure your windshield wipers are ready to go. During treacherous snowstorms, you need to have equipment in your car that is functioning correctly.
If you can get by without making the trip, consider waiting. Here at The Advocates Law Firm, we want to help you stay safe. We understand that there is nothing worse than a severe winter car accident. We hope some of these suggestions will help in some way. Obviously, everyone’s circumstances are different. The tips in this article are meant to serve as a guide, not as a be-all-end-all list. Each reader should customize these tips to their personal needs and take the appropriate measures to stay safe.