First, consider taking Metro as an alternative to driving. If you must drive, drive cautiously and maintain safe speeds and distances from other vehicles. Please stay at least 50 feet behind a vehicle spreading salt or brine. This will protect your vehicle from being pelted with the materials and the salt or brine will spread evenly across the roadway. Visit Safe Travel Around Snowplows for more detailed information.
- Check TV, radio news for current and predicted weather conditions. Winter storms can change intensity and duration quickly.
- Before getting behind the wheel, make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter weather. Make sure your tires’ tread, pressure and balance; and fluids, e.g., gas, windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze, etc. are at their optimum level. Is your cell phone fully charged?
- Have an emergency kit in your car. The kit, which should be in a backpack or other easy to carry bag, should include items like:
- Phone charger
- Snacks (e.g., energy bars)
- Closed toe shoes appropriate for snow/ice
- Window scraper to remove snow
- Get complete information on how to build an emergency go kit, first aid kit, and make a contact list by visiting HSEMA’s Make an Emergency Go Kit page.
- Clear all the snow and ice from your vehicle’s hood, roof, windows and lights before driving.
- Be aware of hazardous road conditions, particularly black ice, which can be deceptive in appearance and give you a false sense of security on the road.
- Keep your speed down. SUVs and other trucks cannot stop more quickly on snow or ice than other vehicles. Visit Reduce Speed [pdf] for more detailed information about the importance of slowing down.
- Drive carefully on bridges, ramps and other elevated structures, which can freeze before the roadway.
- Visit Driving Maneuvers [pdf] for tips for driving on snow and ice.
- Roadway Weather Information System
- National Highway System Traffic Camera Feeds
- Safe Travel Around Snowplows [pdf]
What to Do if You Are Stranded in a Vehicle
If a snow/ice storm catches you by surprise, and you are trapped in your car, take the following actions:
- Turn on your hazard lights and pull off the highway, street or road. If it is safe to leave your vehicle, position the flares behind your vehicle.
- Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
- Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close but is too far to walk to in deep snow.
- Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Exercise to maintain body heat but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
- Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids to avoid dehydration but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs - the use of lights, heat, and radio - with supply.
Winter Storm Tips for Cyclists
- Avoid cycling directly on snow or ice, especially if the temperature is below freezing. Wait for clearing and/or melting
- Watch for “black ice”- a thin, clear sheet of ice that looks like pavement.
- After the storm, bike lanes still may be covered in snow, so share the travel lane with cars as necessary.
- Check your gears and brakes for ice and dirt.
- DPW and DDOT will clear the special bike facilities (such as 15th Street, NW, Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, and the Metropolitan Branch Trail) after the streets have been cleared.