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Old 11-18-2011, 03:58 PM
 
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Has anyone driven I90 Chicago to Seattle in December? I know it sounds crazy but I am desperate to have my car here. Is there a lot of snow? If so, is it kept plowed? What should I expect?
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Old 11-18-2011, 04:26 PM
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naanii View Post
I90 Chicago to Seattle... What should I expect?
I-90 is a major interstate highway. Weather happens.
That 2000 mile trip will take longer in December than the 4 days it would in July.
Maybe a lot longer.

Be prepared for the *inevitable* unscheduled need to go slow or stop altogether and you'll survive fine.

Have good tires and brakes before leaving home.
Keep the gas tank at least half full at all times.
Keep the cell phone charged.
Have a paper map with the planned route.
ALWAYS know where you are.

hth
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Old 11-18-2011, 06:05 PM
 
Location: Texas
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Yes, you can probably count on snow and probably high winds to boot from about Albert Lee, MN over to roughly Big Timber, MT. You're out on the Great Plains and there's nothing to break the wind if it blows. And, if it does blow, it'll leave greasy spots even after the roads get plowed...if they get plowed. There's a lot of highway out there and the while the plows do the best they can, it takes awhile. If it gets really bad, they'll close the road. Between Rapid City, SD and the Wyoming line, you'll be going through the Black Hills and, though you'd never know it, you're about 7000 ft in elevation. It gets BRUTALLY cold there, especially at night, and snow is more than common. In fact, if you hit it just right, you could have sub-zero temperatures, day and night, across SD, WY and MT, so take that into consideration. Make damn sure your anti-freeze is up to snuff. I've seen it get cold enough out there to literally freeze radiator water in a running engine.

After about Bozeman, MT, you start up into the mountains. First, you'll have Homestake Pass just before Butte. I don't know how high it is, but it's about 5 miles up and 5 miles down. On the Idaho line, you've got Lookout Pass and it can be a booger when it snows because it'll snow a lot. You go up a fairly gentle incline for several miles to reach the top, but when you start down the other side toward Wallace, ID, it's 6 miles of pure 6% grade. There's a great drop off on the right which looks scary, but it's unlikely you could go down it because of the trees. But, it'll probably be snowing so hard you can't see it anyhow. They do plow it and spread cinders, but they can have a hard time keeping up with the snow.

From Wallace on across the Idaho Panhandle isn't too bad, but it does get a little crooked alongside the lake. There's another small summit just before the Washington line called Fourth of July, but it's not bad since they built the interstate. Really nothing to worry about.

Eastern Washington is pretty flat, but every creek and river has eroded down so it looks hilly. It's all a giant, old lava field from about Spokane to Ellensburg. After that, you climb up into the Cascades and you have to go over Snowqualmie Pass. That's where you're likely to find the heaviest snow on your route because the warm, moist Pacific air rises over the mountains and dumps it all right there. The pass is prone to avalanches, but they have protective sheds in the usual places.

From roughly Souix City, IA all the way to Billings, it's pretty desolate and mostly empty. There aren't many people who live out there and even the towns are small, though each one should have any necessary services and a place to tie up if it gets bad. Rapid City, SD is the only "big" town you'll find.

You might consider I-80/84/5 but the weather conditions probably won't be much better. The good thing about that route, though, is that you avoid going over a lot of mountains.

Best advice? If your leaving time is flexible, wait until you catch about a 2 or 3 day warm period (they do come fairly regularly), then hit the road and haul azz. The speed limit across both routes is 70 or 75, so if you can stand a 14 or 15 hour days, you can put down a lot of miles very quickly, so long as you keep the left door closed as much as possible. As long as the weather is good, keep moving. Eat on the fly and, if you get sleepy, grab a 15 minute power nap in a truck stop parking lot and get back on the road again before the next front comes in.
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Old 11-18-2011, 07:23 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stillkit View Post
... Between Rapid City, SD and the Wyoming line, you'll be going through the Black Hills and, though you'd never know it, you're about 7000 ft in elevation....
Actually, I-90 mostly skirts the north end of the Black Hills, and I don't think elevation tops 4000 feet until you're into Wyoming, and then I don't think it ever tops 5,000 feet until well west of Billings -- maybe briefly just south of Sheridan.

I-90 is probably the easiest of any east-west interstate routes north of I-40. I-80 has worse winds, which is generally what closes the roads, and I-70 goes right over the top of the Colorado Rockies. Pretty, but it can be a tough drive.

I've often driven I-90 from my home in Wyoming to I-35 in south central Minnesota during all months of the year. It's generally an easy drive, but major winter storms are always possible from October through April. Of 100+ drives across that stretch in the past 40 years, at least half in winter months, I've only had to wait out a storm once, but that was a bugger in early January. My brother also had to spend the night in a high school gym during a trip across SD. I have had to drive on some slick roads a few times, but the interstate is generally kept in pretty decent condition.

I have driven I-80 to I-5 during December a few times without major incident or road closings, but I've also run into some nasty driving conditions.

The weather usually moves from west to east, so get out after a storm passes and you'll generally have a few days of good weather. Just keep an eye out for weather conditions, and your chances of okay driving conditions will be pretty good.

I'd suggest the normal winter emergency gear: food, water, warm clothes, blankets, candles & matches, shovel, chains, cell phone, etc.
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Old 11-18-2011, 07:36 PM
 
Location: Texas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WyoNewk View Post
Actually, I-90 mostly skirts the north end of the Black Hills, and I don't think elevation tops 4000 feet until you're into Wyoming, and then I don't think it ever tops 5,000 feet until well west of Billings -- maybe briefly just south of Sheridan.

I-90 is probably the easiest of any east-west interstate routes north of I-40. I-80 has worse winds, which is generally what closes the roads, and I-70 goes right over the top of the Colorado Rockies. Pretty, but it can be a tough drive.

I've often driven I-90 from my home in Wyoming to I-35 in south central Minnesota during all months of the year. It's generally an easy drive, but major winter storms are always possible from October through April. Of 100+ drives across that stretch in the past 40 years, at least half in winter months, I've only had to wait out a storm once, but that was a bugger in early January. My brother also had to spend the night in a high school gym during a trip across SD. I have had to drive on some slick roads a few times, but the interstate is generally kept in pretty decent condition.

I have driven I-80 to I-5 during December a few times without major incident or road closings, but I've also run into some nasty driving conditions.

The weather usually moves from west to east, so get out after a storm passes and you'll generally have a few days of good weather. Just keep an eye out for weather conditions, and your chances of okay driving conditions will be pretty good.

I'd suggest the normal winter emergency gear: food, water, warm clothes, blankets, candles & matches, shovel, chains, cell phone, etc.

Yes, it's always a crap shoot across there. I just always preferred 80 because my trips across there were in a loaded truck, which gives a whole new meaning to mountains. And, I think the worst winds I ever encountered were near Big Timbers. On slick roads, they've literally blown the trailer out sideways.
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Old 11-18-2011, 08:13 PM
 
Location: Texas
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Look at the forecast and current conditions difference between 94/90 and 80 today.

It can be like this a lot, so watch the weather!

NOAA's National Weather Service (http://www.nws.gov/ - broken link)
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:13 PM
 
Location: North Pole Alaska
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I have not made that drive from the windy city but I have made it from northern MN. Just make sure you have tire chains for the mountain passes. More than likely you will not need them but you are required to carry them in the car with you. Also take food and water in case you get stranded.

I have made the drive in as little as 19 hours but I prefer to do it in about 3-4 days.
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