This is now my third winter in the area, and every winter the local reaction to snow, ice and overall wintry weather boggles my mind. You would think the world was ending. The way people flocked to Food Lion for the traditional milk and bread run on Friday, one would have thought the zombie apocalypse which will end human life on earth was just around the corner.
I too bought bread and milk — along with a cart full of other groceries — on Friday. However, I did so only because I was out of bread and milk — and all of the other stuff.
Throughout the course of the weekend I got about a dozen emails from state agencies — updates on the zombie apocalypse.
I went to Lowe’s Foods Saturday evening and a sign on the door noted the store was closed. The next day the news there was even worse. The store was open, but the beer den was closed. The empty cup holder on my shopping cart was symbolic of the empty place in my heart an unmanned beer den had left. That staff member must have gotten eaten by one of the zombies.
In all seriousness, where we grow up and what we know affects how we react to situations. I’m sure there is a person on the coast who would say, “It’s just a category 1 hurricane. What are you getting excited about?”
I grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, where the average year brought a little more than 60 inches of snow. I spent a few winters in Anchorage, Alaska. There the annual average snowfall is about 75 inches.
In Alaska it was often too cold for salt to work on the roads. I remember feeling as if I was floating as I drove down the Glenn Highway. It was a solid sheet of ice.
Just as I might ask a local where to place my still, how to make pintos or the best place to catch fish around here, I’m going to give all of you who are used to 9 annual inches of snowfall some winter driving advice.
Bear in mind this is experience speaking. I learned most of this the hard way.
One day I was dropping my trash at the trash center. When I struggled to pick up two bags, a gentleman told me, “Two bags is heavier than one.” I didn’t quite know how to respond to this bit of insightful wisdom, but my first piece of advice is just as obvious. Two hands on the wheel are better than one.
That plays into my next helpful hint. Turn the wheel in the opposite direction. Simple, right? If your car’s rear end starts slidding out to the left, just turn the wheel to the left. Be careful not to over-correct, and the best way to be sure you don’t do that is to remain calm.
That’s the big issue at hand — remaining poised.
Snow is a great braking mechanism, by the way. When one feels his or her brakes engage and the car doesn’t slow down it can be useful to use that snow bank next to you for a little help as the rear end of the vehicle in front of you approaches.
Another general issue I see around here is the forward leaning drivers. Leaning into the windshield only makes you more likely to suffer a broken nose when you do screw up.
Also, one doesn’t need to go 10 mph. A car doesn’t lose all control on ice. A driver need only be more subtle in controlling the car. Quick movements are bad on ice. Subtle and deliberate is good. Usually 5 or 10 mph under the speed limit is a good speed.
Finally, that 2 ton pickup you lifted an extra 3 feet so you could feel like a man does you little good on an icy road, especially on the highway. You might as well be driving a Prius. In fact, you’d probably be better off in a Prius. That stated, if you do screw up, the four-wheel drive on the truck will come in handy.
My last bit of advice is always find the soft spot. I learned when I was about 16 you can’t always keep the car on the road. Thus, it is important to know when to let Mother Nature win. When the car starts spinning and that road has officially beaten you, recognize that.
It is then time to enter a damage control mode. You’ve already identified the fact you aren’t going to stay on the road, and that’s OK. Everybody messes up. Don’t think about how you are going to get the car out or pay the deductible on your insurance.
Just identify a soft spot. Glide off into the snow. Glance of a guardrail rather than hit the tree head on. Even when the car is legitimately out of control, slow and deliberate guidance can land you stuck in the ditch rather than wrapped around a telephone pole.
At the end of the day, the key to driving in the snow and ice is poise. Remaining poised allows one to respond to the situation calmly, deliberately and appropriately.
Perhaps, the advice of this northerner by birth and extreme northerner by military orders will help some of you out. If not, go buy your bread and milk and hunker down for the next zombie apocalypse.
Except you, bear den guy or gal! You are required to read this and be at your post throughout the duration of the next catastrophic 6 inches of snow.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.