The DC area, this weekend, was something of a post-apocalyptic landscape. Driving down 395 on Saturday, one would have seen abandoned cars spun out at odd angles and their stranded drivers trudging towards some nameless help. Most residents stayed holed up in their homes, living off of the provisions they had dutifully stocked the day before. Basic commodities were impossible to come by and the majority of services simply shut down. As the snow storm abated, DC residents peered from their homes at the changed landscape, and painstakingly began the cleanup, trying to return to normality.
Ok, sure, that is a bit of an over-dramatization, but seriously, 395 did look like something out of 28 Days Later. This snow, like any snow, threw into sharp relief how woefully unprepared DC area citizens are for wintry weather. So, as a northerner, I take it upon myself to save you all from yourselves before the next snowpocalypse.
Make sure you’ve got essentials, like a shovel, salt and a scraper/brush for you car. Before a snow, there’s always a run on these items, so it’s smart to purchase them when there’s no storm forecast. Make sure you’ve got enough food for a 3 days or so, and try to plan for a few meals that you won’t need to cook, in case the power goes out. Make sure you’ve got blankets and logs for your fireplace (if you have one), in case you lose heat. Finally, get the appropriate clothing, particularly boots. There’s a saying that goes “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.” This couldn’t be more true. Buy warm, water proof gear, and layer it up. Simple forethought will save you a lot of trouble when a storm hits.
Your car is the most likely thing to get you killed in a snow storm, so I’d advise that you not use it until the roads are cleared. I realize that you may feel the urge to get out and see your significant other; just resist it. If you absolutely must get out, you must drive differently than in normal conditions. The following is a very basic tutorial:
1. Clean your car off: Make sure you’ve got all the precipitation cleared from you car. I mean, all of it, not just what’s on the windows. Take a broom and knock the snow off the top of your car, so it doesn’t fly off and nail another driver’s windshield. Clear the snow off your hood and grill, so it doesn’t blow back on your own windshield. Also, make sure you’ve got a shovel in the car, in case you get stuck.
2. Take it slow: Keep your speed down so you have more time to react to your environment, and if you enter a skid. This is the single most important rule to driving in the snow.
3. Easy on the brakes: Begin braking much, much earlier than you normally would. Jamming your brakes removes all traction that you have on a slippery road and will put you into a skid. You need to apply gradual pressure to your pedal in order to stop. If you feel your car beginning to slide, let up off the brake so as to regain traction.
4. Easy on the corners: In normal conditions, you brake into a turn, and then accelerate once you hit the apogee. In snowy conditions, this will put you into a spin. You need to break before the turn and enter it at a low speed. As you begin the turn, let off the brakes so that your tires will turn and you’ll have more traction. Once you complete the turn, then accelerate.
5. In a spin, don’t go with your gut: If you find yourself in a spin, you have to act counter-intuitively to recover. Take your foot off the brake, turn your wheel in the direction that your car is spinning (you’re inclination will be to do the opposite) and then accelerate to regain traction. Once you’ve regained control of your vehicle, correct your course. This is a huge reason to keep your speed down. If you go too fast, it’s impossible to recover from a spin.
6. Beware of other drivers: They may not have read this guide and will seemingly do their damnedest to kill you.
Edmunds has a great tutorial, which basically reiterates what I just said and adds a few rules. Still, the best course of action is simply to stay off the road.
First of all, don’t put salt down before a snow. All this serves is to melt the bottom layer of snow, which then reforms as a sheet of ice. Wait until after you shoveled, then put down the salt to prevent snow melt from freezing over at night. Second, if a big snow is forecast, get out and shovel a few times during the storm. It may seem like more work to shovel your drive multiple times, but trust me: it’s much easier to take care of 6 inches 4 times than it is shovel 2 feet all at once. And be sure to help your neighbors shovel out. It’s a great way to get to know them and to build up neighborhood unity. Plus, you’d like them to do the same for you in the future.
Have some fun with it. I don’t feel like most people fail in this, but, for those that do, get out and play in the snow. It’s a great opportunity to be a kid again, particularly in so far as it’s perfectly legitimate to throw things at other people during a storm.
So, there’s your very basic primer to surviving future snowpocalypses. I have faith that, after a few more snows, you all will get it. Also, beware of yellow snow, etc.