Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Winter Weather Conditions

 


Well it’s still winter 2019 at the time of this writing.  Here in Atlanta, outside of being very wet at times, we have had little or no poor driving conditions.  But the possibility for winter weather driving, which could include snow and ice, while unlikely here in the Southeast is ever present in the winter which can last from November to March. So far this winter, we have had more days above freezing than below.  We are fortunate. 
I have a little experience with cold weather driving.  I was born and raised in Ohio and for a time I lived in Pennsylvania.  And while some locations around the world are far worse cold weather spots, I have seen some nasty weather from time to time.  I include my time in the 18-wheeler as part of that bad weather experience.   I drove into Canada as needed. 
While living in Pennsylvania, we were about an hour south of Erie Pa. and that area got lake-effect snow.  That’s when the wind from the north and west picks up moisture from the lake and then the cold air freezes it.  It will then fall to earth as snow.  I remember that the year (wintertime) I moved here from Pennsylvania, the city I lived in at the time in Pennsylvania received the annual snowfall for all the previous year in 24 hours. 
So much snow in fact that there was no where for the snowplow trucks to push it.  Therefore, they took backhoes and dump trucks and filled the dump trucks with snow and drove to the edge of Lake Erie and dumped the snow into the lake.  That’s a lot of snow.  It’s unlikely that we will see this kind of snow or ice.  However, there are some lessons to be learned from those that live routinely in poor weather during the winter months. 
Recommendation #1 Be careful where you park: 
You had better not park your car on the street the evening before a snow event or you might have to dig your car out before trying to drive off and/or risk getting the car hit by a plow as it goes past to try to clear the street in the early morning hours.  It’s bad enough having to dig out from the snow fall itself but when a snowplow buries your can in snow as it drives by, well that’s just not cool at all.  No pun intended. 
Granted, its unlikely it will snow that deep here, but I did experience a short blizzard-like weather event some years back in Georgia.  It surprised most us because of how quickly it arrived and how intense it was. 
I also lived through the blizzard of 1978 in Ohio.  The difference?  In Ohio they are accustomed to removing snow.  Not so much here.  For example; as I was shoveling the sidewalk the morning after the event, a person with a tractor and plow was attempting to remove snow from the road.  I would hear this routine over and over as I worked:   Hmmmmmmmthunkhmmmmmm  clanghmmmmmmm  bang…   I wondered what the heck is going on?  Then I realized the tractor operator hadn’t much snow removal experience and was hitting road signs, light poles, fire hydrants, and even cars that were stuck in the snow.   It’s funny at first but then you start to think of all the damage being done.  Yeah, I park off the street when it gets super nasty snow. 
When you do get out on the road and headed to your destination, be mindful where you park.  Don’t park on icy patch even if the parking spot is near the building ect.  For the car, it’s not so much a problem getting parked, it’s a problem leaving sometimes.  
The real issue here is you.  You don’t want to slip and fall and break something or hit your head.  I know that falling for older folks is a concern and more likely, but ice is the great equalizer.  Ice doesn’t care how old you are.  Slipping happens on ice for anyone and everyone no matter how quick and athletic you are.   
I try not to dwell on truck driving much but you should know this in regards to ice.  How much do the professional drivers and trucking companies respect ice? 
I was told that for an Icey weather event, if I moved the truck I would be FIRED on the spot.  And btw good luck on getting a ride home from wherever you are in the country or Canada.  That cost for the return trip is on you.   
Notice I said move and not drive.  It didn’t matter if you simply wanted to park in a better place across the parking lot or rest area that you were in.  The company didn’t want you to move the truck period.  These are people that strive to get product to the destination on time so stopping truck is a BIG deal. 
It’s hard to get and retain truck drivers, at least good ones.  If the trucking companies are willing to let a hard to come by asset like a good driver go because of moving a truck in the ice, well I think you can see that they were serious about it. 
 But vehicle concerns aside, you don’t want to slip and fall or hit your head getting out of the vehicle or back into your car.  That icy parking spot may be empty for a good reason. 
Recommendation #2 Cold air freezes car doors sometimes.  Be ready to deal with this: 
Another thing that would be a pain in the rear is if it rained the day before and then froze that night.  Yes, you guessed it, ice again.  For the roadway, that might be okay as the snowplow trucks would dump salt and brine mix on the road to melt the ice but the problem is the door(s) lock on the car.   
While most cars today have key fob lock/unlockit still doesn’t keep the locking mechanism in the door and/or the latch from freezing up as the wetness from the previous days rain freezes overnight.  And water is tough to keep out of places that would be better off without it.  Now ice is in a hidden part of the door, for most cars latches and locks are somewhat concealed, and that makes getting to the ice to removed it is all the harder. 
In summary, you didn’t just jump in the car and take off to get to work or whatever if the door locked up.   
Recommendation #3 Allow the car to warm up before getting in to drive away with considerations: 
Now this is a delicate situation.  You need to let the car run while parked with the defroster on to warm up the interior.  But as with everything else you need to watch your vehicle closely so that some idiot doesn’t’ pull a slider on you and steal your car.  AND, never ever never ever run the car in the garage or car port.  The exhaust is dangerous and can harm or kill you in enclosed spaces DO NOT RUN THE CAR IN AN ENCLOSED SPACE – not even for a few minutes. 
Recommendation #4, Allow more time: 
Each and everyone of these recommendations require more time for you to add to your trip.  Don’t assume that you will be able to drive like you do in May.  It will likely take more time if there is a winter weather event to get where you are going.  The time to realize that is NOT 5 minutes or less prior to getting into the car to drive away. – again, it’s not May. 
Recommendation #5, Get the car “gassed up” the day before, because what if you are stuck in traffic or just plain stuck? 
Especially if you drive over 20 minutes to work or school, and who doesn’t now days.  What did the news media call that weather event some years back?    Snow-mageddon?  Or something like that.  If you remember or hear others speak of it, drivers were stuck on the roadways around Atlanta and could not get home for hours or in some cases simply couldn’t get home.  It can get cold fast without the car running.   
And consider this (not that it would happen to you right?); Just ahead at the next exit you see a gas station and its open until 6 pm and its 5:45 pm but traffic is stopped, and you are on empty with the little red light lit and you are concerned the car will run out of gas…  Now there is a nice feeling (NOT). 
You know what else?  Most people hate fueling the car in the cold air especially if there is wind. 
Recommendation #6, Keep the car up to date on its service: 
You ought to do this anyway but like the previous recommendation with the light on the dash, now is not the time to realize that I should not have put off getting the car in to the dealer or mechanic to be serviced for whatever is wrong.  I can tell you straight up that whatever is marginal on the car, will become critical on the car with weather concerns.  For example, the battery is 3 years old and the car barely turns over to start in May-like weather?  Yeah, it’s gonna fail for sure.  Keep the car up to date and running strong.  You -later with thank you-now for that one. 
Reccommendation #7, Get some items that you keep in the trunk forever: 
Get a plastic tub or container that is big enough to hold the following items and keep it in the car.   Something that closes or is deep is good so that stuff doesn’t come out during normal driving. 
  1. Ice scraper (a credit card is not made to remove snow it will break eventually). 
  1. A pair of leather work gloves are helpful.  You can use these to fill up with gas.  The pump handle is coldbut the real reason is so that you don’t pick up flu germs from the previous customer.  It sounds somewhat germophobic but it’s true – you could and who wants the flu?  It might be worth it to get and use the gloves. 
  1. Maybe a flashlight if you’ll check it from time to time.  If you won’t, don’t bother but you’ll miss it when you need it. 
  1. Paper towels – to check oil and other things.  Even with the gloves you’ll need to wipe the dipstick off or the oil filler hole/tube to put in oil if necessary.  You might need to wipe the windows when stopped for fuel.  Yeah, I know but what if the gas station is out of those paper towels? 
  1. It wouldn’t hurt to have a quart of oil with you.  Keep it in a plastic bag.  IT’s only a buck and if you need it it’s priceless but if you don’t well it won’t go “bad” and you aren’t deeply invested. 
  1. Cat litter?  Well maybe.  I have found that to be a mess to keep around and rarely used and if it is then the bag doesn’t close well so it leaks all over.  I’d rather have a little container that closes tightly and not the whole big bag. 
Recommendation #8, Don’t pack stuff in the truck like your going to the moon: 
Some more advice: don’t overstock on stuff like my mom would have done because you aren’t planning a trip to the north pole.  The idea is to just make things easier and just get by in case of abnormal conditions.  Abnormal means not normal and normal is most of the time for you is without incidents like this weather stuff.  Hopefully normal for you is not an emergency every day. 
And check these items every now and then to make sure they are still of value.  Old stuff fails over time.  The time to find out that the ice scraper is missing or weak from age is not today when the weather turns bad. 
Recommendation #9, be careful in following plows and 18 wheelers, DON’T TAILGATE!  
I’ve heard experienced drivers say that they felt it wise to follow snow plows and large trucks so they could lead the way down the road and following in their tracks made these experienced drivers feel safer.  Okay maybe but, don’t get too close.  These are industrial equipment and not casual vehicles.  Most truck drivers are professional, but some aren’t so much.  Remember I said it was hard to find good drivers?  I’m not kiddin’.  Here comes another story (quit rolling your eyes I saw that…)  I was driving truck in upper Wisconsin and it was really putting the snow down.  The truck was fully loaded and heavy, 98,000 pounds worth of product.  The truck stays nicely on the road provided its not icy when fully loaded.  Newly fallen snow typically is not slippery as it has not been packed down yet.  I could still see the road markings, but the road was starting to get covered and I knew I’d have to stop further up the road.  I kept the truck moving and as I looked in the rearview mirror on the outside drivers side, I could see cars that had lined up behind me to follow in my tracks to get down the road.  There must have been a mile-long group following me.  It was headlights as far back as I could see before the falling snow hid the cars from my view.  I thought to myself well that’s okay, but you people had better hope that I don’t need to stop in a hurry or you all are going to have a problem.  Don’t tailgate the trucks and plows.  Besides irritating the drivers of those vehicles, you can’t guarantee anyone (especially yourself) that you won’t hit the vehicle in front of you. 
In summary: 
Well there you have it, 9 recommendations from someone that has been in the wintery mess before.  Just keep in mind while you might think that you are a good driver and these are nice to know, it isn’t just about you.  You know as I do that there are others out there not as good a driver as we would like them to be.  Remembering all the recommendations I mentioned and keeping less than acceptable drivers in your mind you can see how it can be a problem outside of your immediate zones around your car too.  Be watchful. 
Here’s something you might not know but it’s good to be aware of: 
The fuel that is sold in the warmer months and the fuel that is sold in the cooler months is not the same “mix.”  An active gas station will run a lot a fuel through their storage tanks.  Therefore, the fuel you get from the busy stations will be “fresh.”  Stale gas doesn’t burn well and could be the different mix from previous seasons.  I prefer a busy name brand gas station to get fuel.   
Stay warm, stay safe… 

Posted by Joe Shenefield  


1 comment:

Which generation is the better driver?

When I taught behind the wheel, I would remind students that the future of our society rested upon their shoulders. I am sure that there was...