It's been a long and busy week with two big road trips this past week – one in the Roadtrek eTrek to Kitchener, Ontario and a visit to the Roadtrek factory for some video work, the other to Pittsburgh, PA on another video project. While the Kitchener trip was blessed with great weather, the Pittsburgh trip led to some very white knuckle driving on the way back home when we unexpectedly encountered near white-out conditions from Lake Erie effect snow squalls just est of Cleveland.
It was a great reminder of how fast conditions can change when driving an interstate in the winter.
We were on the Ohio Turnpike (I-80), an hour from Pittsburgh headed back to Michigan. When we left it was sunny and 39 degrees, according to my in-dash thermometer. An hour later, like someone turned a switch, the temperature had dropped to 27 degrees and we noticed snow flurries. Within a mile, those snow flurries had turned into a fierce squall and in a couple more miles, the road was snow covered and slippery and visibility had dropped to a couple hundred yards.
Yikes. The photo doesn't do justice to how lousy visibility was.
Twenty miles further down the Ohio Turnpike, the snow was gone and the road was clear.
As we listened to radio reports, we heard of car crashes all over. Such are the dangers of those sudden snow squalls.
Last year, coming back from a winter RV trip to Florida, we encountered a similar white-out north of Cincinnati on I-75. Traffic suddenly ground to a stop. I looked over on the southbound lanes and saw cars smashed and twisted everywhere. Over 100 vehicles had been involved. There were lots of injuries and a fatality.
My top three rules for winter driving:
1) Never drive faster than you can see. By that I mean that if you can only see a hundred yards up the road, you better not be going so fast that you can't stop in 100 yards.
2) Be aware of the road surface. If the snow is sticking, the pavement is slippery. There may be black ice covering the parts of the road where the surface shows through.
3) In a whiteout, do NOT pull over to the shoulder of the road and wait it out there. Carefully move over in the slow lane and take the next exit to get off the interstate as soon as you can if you are the least bit apprehensive about your ability to control the vehicle.
As our travels this week reminded us, like it or not, winter is here.
Be careful out there!