The first winter storm of the season is forecast for this weekend. Upper elevations are predicted to get about 6″ of snow. Riiiiiggghhht!
First of all, while I appreciate the volatility of weather fronts and know meteorology must be a very difficult profession, the fact that two full days in advance a storm warning has been put up is just ridiculous! I have decided it is some sort of collusion/kick-back set-up among weatherpersons and grocery stores. I can pretty much predict – with a much higher likelihood of being right – that there will be almost zero milk, bread, and other staples left on the shelves of grocery stores in our area.
For reasons I cannot fathom, there is a large segment of the population around here that panics at the very mention of snow. The people who should panic are the ones who don’t naturally lose control of their faculties in the winter but must be forced to share the highways and byways with the people who have no business driving, winter or summer!
Now, I am not completely ignorant of the facts about backcountry road conditions when winter weather turns nasty, especially when it leaves ice on hill-and-dale streets. But I guarantee you that panicking either before, during, or after the fact is just downright stupid. If one feels the urge to panic, then please STAY HOME AND HIDE YOUR CAR KEYS!
For those of you who must drive, there are a few basic rules to follow, and they apply to all drivers – experienced or not.
- 1. Stay a safe distance behind any vehicle you follow. Normally, that means 2 car lengths. In winter weather make that 3! You can’t always see icy patches on the road, and being forced to brake at unsafe distances can have you sitting in the driver’s seat – of the car in front of you!
- 2. Don’t speed! In fact, be prepared to drive well below the limit. Look, this is not necessarily because you can’t handle the speed, but because there are plenty of other drivers with whom you share the highway who cannot. It is exponentially easier to brake to a stop from a slower speed than a faster one. Duh!
- 3. If the skid happens despite all your care, take your foot off the gas and the brake, and turn you wheels in the direction you are skidding. For instance, if you feel the car pulling right, turn your steering wheel to the right. Sounds counterintuitive, but it works. I have been there. I was driving in an ice storm (it started well after I began my trip), on an interstate in Pennsylvania late one night. Two of my very young sons were in the back seat, buckled in, but it was a very risky situation. Because the ice had begun, I made the decision to stop at the first exit and stay at the first motel I could find. I was on the exit ramp, and my car started to skid to the right. I said a prayer (there was traffic ahead of me – everyone else had the same idea!), lightly tapped the brake, took my foot off immediately, and turned the wheel right – (if car overcompensates, then turn your wheels in the other direction, back and forth in whatever direction the car spins) – the direction in which I had started to skid. The car did two full 360 degree revolutions before coming to a stop. The boys thought it was great fun, and giggled the whole time and shouted “Wheeeeee!” throughout the event, which was only a few seconds, but felt like an eternity. There was no collision, thank God, but my heart had to slow down a bit before I carried on to the first available place to stay.
- 4. Especially if you live around or must travel steep roads or driveways, consider putting chains on your back tires. In some states, they might be illegal on non-snowy roads, or past the end of the winter season, because they can chop up the road surface, but if you and drivers around you are safer, I say “Go for it.”
- 5. LAST, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – BUCKLE UP! I can’t stress this enough, and you all know why.
Of course the usual weather rule applies: to predict the weather, step outside, look at the sky, and then listen to the forecast. Also, it always seems to me that if a big storm is predicted, it won’t happen, and if a small front is expected to miss your area, it will probably hit your area the hardest. This little Murphy’s Law has proven true more often than not, but in any event, when it comes to whether you get a storm, you have a 50-50 chance of being right!
Hope all the weather wherever you live is exactly what is needed, and I ask that you be careful – if not for your own sake, then for other drivers on the road with you. You can never be safe enough. . .