Since we had such a large snow storm this weekend, it dawned on me that some folks might not be equipped to handle the elements. In Maryland, we are prepared for such events so this entry is geared towards people from places like Buffalo, Chicago and Massachusetts who may not be prepared for the devastation of such events. I am originally from Buffalo, so I am blessed to have been allowed to live in a place like Baltimore where the bad habits learned from my time in upstate New York could be effectively unlearned. Here are some tips.
1. Other Drivers: Firstly, the roads are filled with people. This is a result of the unparalleled population growth and the need to be places. So you must learn to drive defensively. Always keep at least 2000 feet between yourself and the next car. And drive SLOW! Do not exceed more than 5 mph on secondary streets and increase that to 25 mph on highways. This will inevitably cause anger in drivers following you, but it’s all for safety!
2. Heat: In a cold weather event, please remember to take all necessary precautions to stay warm. Nature provides a wonderful insulation for your car by piling a blanket of snow on it. Use this silver lining to your benefit! This blanket is a natural insulator and will help trap warmth inside your vehicle. Only clean enough snow off your car for you to be able to see through your windshield. Make sure you create a small opening in the snow so you can see your mirrors as well. It’s got to do with defensive driving. See rule 1 above.
3. Alcohol: A lot of people will tell you that alcohol is bad for your body on a cold day because it thins your blood. This is an old wives tale. Drinking alcohol will cause your body to feel warm. You should make sure that whatever you drink has a high alcohol volume content. This should be prominently displayed on the label. The higher the alcohol volume, the more warm you will be. I recommend brandy, better yet, vodka. The Russians have been drinking vodka for years to stay warm. Take it from the Siberians on this one!
4. Supplies: You will usually know a few days before a large snow event, so this should be something you can do with just a little foresight. Make sure you have plenty of bread, milk and toilet paper. These are hot commodities during a snow storm. Ironically, stores usually stop stocking these supplies so you may have to look around a bit. If you do come to a store that has one or two of these items remaining on their shelves, do whatever it takes to secure them. I witnessed an old man get beat up for his milk. It’s an extreme example, but please take all the necessary actions to make sure your family will have what it needs.
5. Black Ice: Please be careful on the roads. Plows usually make their best effort to clear all snow and ice from the roads, but occasionally there are instances where black ice will develop on a road. Black ice is no more deadly than white ice and is a relatively new phenomenon in the past few years as a result of an affirmative action lawsuit filed by Jesse Jackson.
6. Sport Utility Vehicles: When trying to get around, it is important to have a good set of wheels. Usually, you can pick up an SUV from somewhere – new, used, doesn’t matter. The important thing is that SUVs are equipped to handle inclement weather – especially ice.
7. Four-Wheel Drive: If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle you’re set. However, be warned that four-wheel drive is actually a sales gimmick used by the car manufacturers to get more money. All four-wheel drive means is that it has 4 wheels and if you don’t have a vehicle with four wheels, you shouldn’t be on the road. I’m sorry folks, I’m just trying to be realistic and sometimes the truth hurts.
8. Entertainment: For those days that you are stuck indoors, you may want to make sure you have a good stock of DVDs and CDs to watch and listen to. However, Blockbuster is not usually a good place to go for these as everyone goes there. That said, going to Blockbuster allows you the chance to drive in circles in an empty parking lot with your four-wheel drive vehicle.
9. Information: There is a concerted effort to make sure the public stays informed. Usually, you can turn on your local television or radio station where they will provide 24 hour coverage of local Denny’s Restaurants, 7-11 convenience stores and government “war rooms” where important information such as a) where to find milk, bread and toilet paper (see #4), b) what yoga classes are cancelled and c) how many of your neighbors are without power can be gleaned. Pay close attention to it. In Baltimore, WJZ has Don Scott and Marty Bass to provide coverage from 4am to 4pm during these events. This is critical information that you should lock your TVs into.
10) Preparation: Finally, you may not get a snow storm. Sometimes weather conditions change at the last-minute and push an impending storm in a different direction. But you should always be prepared. If a storm is predicted, make sure you leave enough time the day before to get home safely. The storm may not come for another day, but at least you’ll know you are safe at home. You may need to go get milk, bread and toilet paper as well.
I hope these tips come in handy. People from Chicago and New York, especially, should take note of these tips. In my time driving in these areas, it’s apparent to me that these people do not respect the elements. Snow storms can be devastating. Slow your car down. Prepare. And whatever you do, don’t panic!