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PHOENIX – Winter storms will have many desert dwellers heading to the high country to toss snowballs, make snow angels, sled, etc., etc. The Arizona Department of Transportation hopes you will have a great time if you’re among them, but they’re reminding everyone to play it safe and be prepared. They’re telling people to expect to spend extended time in frigid conditions and pack a fully charged cellphone and other safety essentials.  

Wherever you decide to play in the snow, make sure it isn’t along a highway. Using shoulders for anything but emergencies can endanger you, your passengers and other motorists while interfering with first responders and snowplows. In addition, ADOT’s plows can throw snow and ice a great distance off the roadway.

Pack plenty of patience and common sense along with coats, blankets, snacks, water and other essentials that ADOT lists at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

Pay close attention to the forecast. Be sure to slow down on roads slick with snow and ice.

With ADOT’s snowplows likely to be operating in many areas during snow storms, always respect the plow. Stay a minimum of four vehicle lengths behind and don’t pass a snowplow until the operator pulls aside. Remember: The safest place on an icy highway is behind a snowplow.

Larger crowds tend to gather on weekends around the holidays at popular areas such as US 180 northwest of Flagstaff. That often leads to delays at day’s end when large numbers of people head for home.

You may be able to reduce the chance of being caught in delays by starting back early. People  taking US 180 through Flagstaff can save time by using a marked alternate route to Interstate 40 at Butler Avenue, via Switzer Canyon Drive and Route 66, and then heading west to I-17.

The Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau lists designated snow-play sites at FlagstaffArizona.org and offers a winter recreation hotline at 844.256.SNOW.

Be sure to check highway conditions before hitting the road. Visiting ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov or calling 511 will alert you to incidents as well as snow and ice on the road. For Interstate 17 travelers, ADOT’s message boards provide estimated travel times to Flagstaff, Prescott and other popular high-country destinations.

The free ADOT Alerts app, available for iOS and Android devices at ADOTAlerts.com, will notify users about weather-related closures. In addition, it will alert those along US 180 if delays back to Flagstaff appear likely.

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