Safe to drive from Seattle to Vancouver this weekend?
February 11, 2019 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I had a planned trip to visit some Internet Friends in Vancouver, Canada this weekend. However, all this snow is making me anxious about the trip. Should I be worried about driving on the highway in this weather?

Tentative plan is to drive up Friday and return Sunday. I'm originally from the South, so I don't have much experience on driving in snow. Should I pick up chains? Are there any other precautions I should be taking for this trip, or should I cancel?
posted by isauteikisa to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
Do you have to decide now? I would make a decision closer to the end of the week. If it warms up and especially if it rains, the roads may very well be clear.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:12 PM on February 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Highways should be fine rain is coming temps are going up.
posted by Freedomboy at 2:13 PM on February 11, 2019

Response by poster: Do you have to decide now? I would make a decision closer to the end of the week. If it warms up and especially if it rains, the roads may very well be clear.

Optimally, I'd have a go // no-go before EOD tomorrow, so that I can cancel hotel sans penalty and let my Internet Friends know I won't be able to make it up. If I delay and end up not being able to make the trip, it's annoying and will cost money but wouldn't be financially ruinous to any degree.
posted by isauteikisa at 2:17 PM on February 11, 2019

We are all just waiting for another huge dump of snow this afternoon, going all night and all day tomorrow.

In my experience, things can dissipate pretty quickly or it'll be a lot worse than anyone has imagined. Are you sure you can't wait and see? At least another couple of days....

It's too soon to know what's what right now but the highways are usually OK, even with snow. Vancouver downtown proper is actually fine, it's the higher elevations that are worse i.e. Burnaby, Coquitlam etc.
posted by JenThePro at 2:18 PM on February 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not a native of the area, but it is my understanding that southern BC doesn't tend to keep the kind of accumulations that put you into chain-country. Forget about chains.

Checking the weather for next weekend says positive temperatures (above freezing, Celsius), so even if there is snow around it's unlikely to be unbearably oppressive. I would not be surprised if there's no snow at all on the ground in some places, especially non-mountain places.

That being said, when the temperature is right around the freezing mark you can get freezing rain, which is Satan's own weather. It's unpleasant, dangerous, opaque, and unpredictable because tiny fluctuations in wind and temperature lead to very different freezing rain events. Road surfaces can be invisibly covered in frictionless death.

If you have no experience driving on ice, a certain level of caution is warranted. Winter driving is all about experience.

But I'm from Ontario, where it snows oodles and oodles and the temperature's been plunging well south of zero lately, so conditions here are probably trickier to navigate than where you're headed. Don't let my winter driving anxiety rub off on you unnecessarily.

Fog and freezing rain are your probable challenges.
posted by Construction Concern at 2:19 PM on February 11, 2019

They are pretty good about keeping highways safe and drivable with plowing and salt, I just drove from BC to Spokane two days ago right after a snowfall and the highways were clear. You can check road conditions online before you go. Driving at night is not advised, as when the temps drop you can get icy conditions (plowing and salting generally happens in the morning) but with such a short trip you should be able to avoid that.

Pro tip for southerners driving in snow: Drive like you're taking your grandma to a church dinner and she's got a full crockpot of gravy in her lap and is wearing a new dress. (I am from the South, can confirm above statement)
posted by ananci at 2:25 PM on February 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Can you take the Bolt Bus up there instead?
posted by k8t at 3:28 PM on February 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Could you take the train?
posted by nathaole at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's supposed to start raining on Thursday. By Friday I think it should be fine. Seattle tends to get more snow than, say, Bellingham or Vancouver anyway.
posted by JamesBay at 4:28 PM on February 11, 2019

For the canadian part of the journey, it's worth keeping tabs on
posted by chapps at 4:40 PM on February 11, 2019

I'm not in Seattle any more but drove up and down that route regularly when I lived there. I would be very surprised if the interstate itself had any snow on it at all by this weekend. Maybe easy for me to say since I'm more used to driving in the snow, but I wouldn't worry at all about the highway, it's the city that's the problem.
posted by quaking fajita at 5:04 PM on February 11, 2019

I wouldn’t - Freezing rain plus Vancouver = avoid!! Keep an eye on it but the last few years in Vancouver have been SO icy and terrible.
I’m victoria right now and the highways are shut down in places and things aren’t getting better.
posted by elke_wood at 5:22 PM on February 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Vancouver is doing so much better than Seattle in this current weather. You should be fine. You will not require chains or anything of that nature. Road hazards in Vancouver (shitty side streets) are the same as the ones you would see if you stayed at home. Might as well enjoy your trip!
posted by crazycanuck at 10:41 PM on February 11, 2019

Weather in Seattle has switched to rain and snow is melting off at a good clip. Temps aren’t expected to hit freezing again which means the roads won’t be icy by the weekend. If you have until EOD tomorrow to make your go/no-go call, it doesn’t hurt to wait until lunchtime to verify the road conditions - but if you can get to I5, you’re probably good to get to BC this weekend.
posted by SakuraK at 11:16 PM on February 11, 2019

It's really ugly South of Vancouver right now (Vancouver proper isn't too bad), but it should be fine by the weekend. Avoid driving very early in the day or in the evenings (black ice) if you're apprehensive.

Side streets are a mess, but highways should be fine. Stay in the right hand lane and go only as fast as you're comfortable. There are jerks out there, but they'll ignore you if you stay in the right hand lane.

As long as you're staying in the city and not heading to the Island or needing to take the Coquihalla, I'd say go for it.
posted by porpoise at 11:08 AM on February 12, 2019

> Should I pick up chains?

It can't hurt. Toss them in the car, along with a pair of work gloves and something to kneel on, and you'll have them if you need them, now or in the future. Do practice putting them on in your driveway, though. (The Corpse family also practices fighting about putting on the chains so we all have our roles worked out when we're actually on the mountain pass, but if you're traveling alone that might be overkill.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:20 PM on February 12, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks all for the advice. I bumped my trip back to Saturday to leave an extra day for things to clear out of paranoia. Time to double the number of countries I've been in!
posted by isauteikisa at 3:14 PM on February 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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