Winter driving in Northern AZ / NM
In mid-December I am planning to drive from New York to Southern California. My preferred route includes I-40 through Alberquerque, NM and Flagstaff, AZ.
My car is front-wheel drive and has new all-weather tires, but I do NOT have chains.
Anyone familiar with this route in winter? Is it unwise for me to plan this? Should I duck south instead?
Thanks in advance...
You won't know until you go!
I-40 will generally be open -- but at any time October through May you can run into a storm that will deposit snow and ice on that stretch of road -- but odds are always good the road will be open, passable, even clear, within a few hours of storm passage. When they close it, it is usually for a few hours, rather than days.
Plan on your I-40 route, keep an eye on the weather and road conditions, and cut south to I-10 only if you need to -- you can do that at different points along the route.
Thanks so much. I appreciate your help. I was hoping not to have to spend 20-some hours crossing the entire state of Texas-- the panhandle will be more than enough for me!
I'll obviously check the weather as I go, but any thoughts on the likelihood that I'll be able to make a quick and easy side trip up to Santa Fe from Albequerque?
Albuquerque to Santa Fe
Shouldn't be any more a problem than I-40 in that area -- it is interstate (I-25) all the way, on high desert lands. It's only about 50 or 60 miles I think. So if the weather and roads are good, it won't be a problem at all.
You mention the Panhandle -- I figure it is just as likely you'd run into icy roads there as it is further west -- maybe even more so. So keep an eye on that area as well! Bob
Ice and I-40
The Arizona and New Mexico highway departments are some of the best in the west (for dealing with ice). Texas on the other hand is notoriously bad. I have one suggestion for you -- if you hit ice & snow on I-40 anywhere in Texas -- exit the Interstate and use the un-plowed access roads that run parallel to the Interstate -- it may seem counter-intuitive - but trust me, you will be safer away from the heavy traffic stuck on I-40.
I-10 & I-20 are no guarantee of avoiding ice storms either -- some of the roughest sections for ice are between Van Horn and Ft. Stockton. I have been ice-marooned a couple of times in Ft. Worth (any route to the south is that much closer to the moisture of the gulf and ice is always a risk for central Texas.)
Oklahoma along I-40 can be dicey too -- the important thing, if you hit an icy area, is to establish a calm, plodding speed, make no lane changes and muddle on through. Traveling in a post-ice storm is not relaxing but it isn't all that bad either.