General Question

deni's avatar

What is the weather like along I-70 in January?

Asked by deni (22092 points ) October 7th, 2009

As of now I’m moving to Colorado in January. However, the more people I tell this to, the more people GASP because they think I’m going to hit a huge blizzard and never make it there.

It’s a straight shot from where I live (a little east of Pittsburgh) to Denver. I know that in January, here in PA it could either be snowing a storm or doing absoutely nothing, and I’m sure it’s the same in Ohio, Indiana….but Kansas and eastern Colorado, even Missouri…what is the weather like there in January?

Basically, do you think it’s risky? I personally don’t. 24 hours on the road, I think the chance of you hitting a seriously bad storm is unlikely, but then again I don’t know! I do know you’d have to be careful, as I’m sure there would be snow almost everywhere. It probably wouldn’t be a fun or hasty drive but the destination makes it worthwhile.

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22 Answers

Likeradar's avatar

I live in Denver. I definitley think planning a drive along I-70 around here (I haven’t gone too far East on 70) in January is taking a big risk.

It very well may be 60 degrees and sunny. But the chances are very good there will be road closures, chain requirements, almost zero visibility, and other very hazardous conditions.

Does your schedule allow you to check out the road conditions before leaving and plan an optimal time, or are you stuck to a specific date?

gailcalled's avatar

Which part of Colorado; east of the Rockies? It is flat country until you hit the Mts.

deni's avatar

@gailcalled Well, the foothills – Boulder.

@Likeradar I hadn’t even thought of the chain requirements. I always see those signs driving along I-70 but never think anything of them. AHh, I’m glad you thought of that for me! My schedule is loose. As of now anyhow…I don’t have any specific dates I need to stick to, although it would be nice to have a day set. I can work around stuff, though.

gailcalled's avatar

Boulder is wonderful. But the elevation is 5400’ and the Flatirons are not low. Bring warm clothing and an AAA membership.

jrpowell's avatar

A word of advice.. Get chains and practice putting them on. Practice a lot. Then buy some good gloves. Then practice putting them on with the gloves on.

It can be very hard to put chains on when your fingers are numb. Trust me.

marinelife's avatar

For Colorado:

“The January Mean Temperature is 29.2 degrees (from 1971–2000 data).” Source

“Average January Snowfall is 7.7 inches (from 1971–2000 DEN data).” Source

You may want to look at the tables as the variance is enormous.

Likeradar's avatar

@deni There have been times during the winters out here that I couldn’t drive from Denver to Boulder because of road conditions. And I’m reasonably cautious, not a total wimp.

If you decide to do this drive, please leave yourself a lot of time in case of blizzards and be willing to get a room for overnight in a few towns along the way if you need to.

I hope you get sunshine!

cbloom8's avatar

I live north of Denver, but I think that traveling I-70 isn’t TOO big of a risk. It definitely could be trouble depending on the weather, but coming from the east, it’s not as bad as the west, which goes right into the mountains. You could be unlucky and have some horrible times, but it’s not like I-70 in January is always a downpour of snow.

janbb's avatar

Sailors talk of looking for a “weather window” before making a long crossing. I think if your leaving date is flexible, you should be able to get fairly accurate predictions before setting out (since it is only a 24 hour trip) and time your leaving to be safe. Naturally, you should also have things like chains, flares and warm clothes in the car “just in case.”

brinibear's avatar

There usually isn’t any chain requirements out on 1–70 unless you are going through the mountains. But because you are going to be going through Kansas, you might hit a storm that will close down 1–70 going to and leaving CO. But we usually don’t get those types of storms until March, or April. But like @janbb said, you have to have an emergency kit with you no matter what, cause you are going to be driving out on the plains, and there isn’t a lot there. But you should be safe driving through in Jan. Rest up, don’t drive stright through, take many breaks you’ll need it. Good luck, and I will wish you an early Welcome to Co. you’ll love it!

Capt_Bloth's avatar

January can be rather harsh, but I think you should be O.K.
I lived in Colorado Springs my whole life, and you can still get around fine. March is when we always saw the biggest storms (3–4 feet in Monument). Take it slow, and if the wether is bad just stop for the night.

hartford3's avatar

All these answers are informative and good. I’ll answer from my experience. I’ve driven this route hundreds of times both in auto and ‘big truck’ (30 yrs. OTR).
The person who made the comment about a weather window was right on. With todays prediction accuracy this is possible.
From Penna to Kansas City, Mo. in January you have the possibility of heavy snows. Usually well predicted. Less so west of St. Louis to KC. Missouri usually having milder weather. Once into Kansas you will have more wind, colder temps, possible midwest blizzards, and more boredom. I don’t recall a lot of heavy wet snows in Kansas but the wind conditions will create ground blizzards even on sunny days with even minimal amount of snow. There are no mountains in Kansas to worry about. Colorado, here’s where the fun starts. It is much the same as Kansas till you get to Wheatridge (Denver west). It’s flat long and pretty much nothing till Denver. It too is windy, cold, with possible blinding snow. Anticipate, watch the news, look for that window. Pack your emergency equipment. The usual warm clothes, communication, food, warning devices, and get good rest. You shouldn’t need chains except west of Denver.
So it’s not a real hard dangerous trip. There are lot’s of interesting things to see, lot’s of good food. (Try the truck stop in Topeka) I’ll say rest again. Kansas and Colorado will put you to sleep.
Hope I added something. Just joined this, uh, ocean so thought I’d blow off. You’ll love Colorado. Everybody is from out east. ( Joke) ...

deni's avatar

@hartford3 Thanks so much, very helpful answer! Kansas sure will put you to sleep, lol, I dread driving through it, but then again there is something so comforting about it. If I’m in Kansas, I must be on my way to something fantastic or just coming home from it…both of which are good. Anyhow, I can’t wait to get out there, I’ll fo sho take your advice :)

Yetanotheruser's avatar

My experience echoes that of @hartford3. My last trip along I-70 was on Jan 2, 1996. We picked up I-70 in Missouri after coming from GA. We met a blizzard in Kansas. You may see heavy weather anywhere along the route. In Missouri, Southern Illinois and Indiana, you are more likely to see ice storms than snow storms. It is possible to drive in a snowstorm if it is not a blizzard. Instead of taking the I-70 route, you may want to consider the I-80 route. According to Google maps there is only a total difference of 5 miles.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@deni So how was your trip?

deni's avatar

@Yetanotheruser it was pretty awful. as soon as we got to ohio we hit a blizzard. wrecks everywhere and we had to do like 45 mph until we got through indiana…the heat stopped working in the car right before we got to kansas in the middle of the night…it was in the negatives and there was a cold breeze in the car the entire night but there was nowhere to stop…it was a really horrible trip, but we arrived alive, somehow lol :)

GracieT's avatar

I live in Ohio. I’ve lived on both the north and south sides of 70. What’s most alarming about the highway in Ohio is that it seems to be the line in the state that divides the freezing from the non freezing sides of the highway. It can seem to be ok on one side, but freezing on the other, so you can be expecting one condition and then get another. I agree with @Yetanotheruser, try i-80 instead if you can.

deni's avatar

@GracieT i’ve completed the drive with horrendous results. i will never take that route or any other route in january ever again. it was really scary.

GracieT's avatar

I’m sorry, @deni, did you mean that you’ve gone I-70 or I-80 already? Which way did you mean? The only one I’ve ever taken is I-70, but I worked at a hospital and also a university in Dayton and known professors and ER doctors who’ve made the drive daily. In both cases I’ve lived and worked within 10 miles of I-70. The people I’ve talked to have all said that there were good reasons for them to not move, but the drive could be harrowing.

deni's avatar

I took 70 the entire way from Pennsylvania to Denver. The weather was worst in Ohio…it was a blizzard with car wrecks literally every half mile. And beyond that the temperature was in the negatives. Too cold for heat to work. It blew.

WestRiverrat's avatar

You should have a good winter survival kit with you that includes a heat source capable of at least 24 hours. A candle can make a lot of difference in a confined area like a car.
A three day supply of high energy food and water. Civilian versions of MRE’s are great for this.
A space blanket or cold rated -20F sleeping bag.
A flashlight.

If you do light a heat source make sure you have at least on window open at least an inch to ventilate so you don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning.

Most important is keep the survival kit in the car, not the trunk. If you can’t get the doors open to get to the trunk, the survival kit is useless there.

If you pick your weather window correctly you should make it with no problems, but it is best to be prepared. Are you going alone or will you have companionship on the trip? Oh and don’t use the cruise control, it leads to nothing but trouble if you get onto black ice.

janbb's avatar

@WestRiverrat She made this trip years ago.

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