One of our clients and long time friends came into the office the other day and told us a harrowing story of his experience during the big snowstorm of 2016. Since 2017 has begun with wild winter weather, he asked us to pass on some of the lessons that he learned. Bob, a teacher in Beaverton, began his usual hour long commute back to Milwaukie with the snow already starting to build on the roads. After sitting in traffic for hours, he decided to follow Siri’s directions, and leave the freeway, navigating through the west hills. He found himself at the top of a steep icy hill. As he looked down, he knew that he could not make it down without sliding. Panicking, he turned his wheel and hit the brakes. This caused his car to slide sideways and spin around. He ended up sliding backwards down the hill, missing parked cars by inches. Luckily, he was uninjured and there was no damage to his car or anyone’s property. Bob had to walk several miles in the snow to get to the MAX station. When Bob told us the story, he described what had felt like divine intervention the day before. As an afterthought, he had placed some warm clothes and hiking boots in his car. He didn’t realize how soon he would desperately need these supplies.
This was a frightening scenario that could have been so much worse. Although many of our clients were stranded and some even got into accidents, we are grateful that everyone made it through relatively uninjured. It looks like we could get hit with another storm or two and be in the same situation. Of course we recommend staying home but if that cannot be helped, here are some safety tips.
1. Keep your car fueled: A gas tank in the red can actually damage your car in the winter causing condensation and the possibility of frozen fuel lines not to mention that you need your heater if you are stranded.
2. Have an emergency stash: Snacks, portable phone charger, flashlight, blanket, warm clothes and shoes, tire chains, gloves, head lamp, water, whistle, candle (set on your dashboard to heat your car), lighter, snow scraper.
3. Keep your lights on and low: It can be hard to see in the snow. Make sure you can see and that you are seen.
4. Service your car: Problems happen more quickly when it is very cold. Especially ensure that you have enough tread on your tires and your windshield wipers are in good shape.
5. Keep your distance. Double or triple the distance that you would normally have between your car and the car in front.
6. Don’t panic: If you feel your tires start to slip, it’s easy to panic and slam on the brakes. Don’t do it — this removes traction from your tires, taking away your ability to control your vehicle.
7. Know how to brake: If your vehicle comes with an anti-lock brake system, brake with steady, even pressure. If your car doesn’t have ABS, then you should pump the brakes by quickly braking again and again.
8. Ease into corners: As you approach a turn, begin a steady braking. Once in the corner, ease off the brakes and use the car’s traction to steer through the turn.
9. Siri doesn’t do snow!: Apparently navigation devices do not know the best routes to avoid traffic in the snow. Be aware of problems in going off the main route.