The challenge of winter driving

January 30, 2013

I wish they had one of these Winter Driving Skills Clinics around here. I don’t know how many Iowans would think they needed it, but the ones who ended up in the ditch today might agree to take such a class.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people around here need it even more than those in Colorado, because we don’t get a lot of chances to practice driving in winter weather. We had a bad storm the third week of December, then hardly any snow until today. Yesterday, Moline (where I work, across the river in Illinois) had a low of 37 degrees, tying the record (warm low) set in 2006. And Dubuque had a record high of 55 degrees, breaking the record of 54 set in 1914.

Then this morning the rain changed to snow right before I left for work. I spent the next forty minutes driving on snow-covered roads (I saw plows on the highway heading in the opposite direction, but they hadn’t gotten to our side yet), most traffic going about 45 mph instead of the usual 70 (speed limit is 65). A few times I passed cars going only 35 or 40 mph – I hate having to pass in bad weather, because the passing lane is even more snow-covered, but I prefer not to have other cars close by either in front or behind if one of us starts skidding.

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Mid = beginning?

December 21, 2008

I have long wondered why the day defined as the beginning of winter falls in the latter part of December, when freezing temperatures have been the norm for some time. To add to the confusion, the time of the winter solstice is also known as Midwinter. Since winter lasts well into Febrary in most places I have lived (and often through much of March as well), today is hardly even close to the middle of winter. But it sure doesn’t feel like the beginning either.

The local schools have already had one snow day (day before yesterday, which should have been their last day before winter break), as well as one delayed opening and two early closings due to snow and ice. Trees are still encased in ice from the storm Thursday night (so is my older son’s car), and yesterday added a coat of snow over the ice. Here is a picture, taken yesterday afternoon, of the corner where we live.

westwood-allen

 Today the snow has mostly been blown off the trees, by a wind that currently is giving a wind chill of 2 degrees below zero – and is expected to produce a wind chill of as low as thirty-five below tonight. The blizzard warning just expired at 6 PM, but the wind chill warning remains in effect until midnight tomorrow (by Tuesday the wind chill is forecast to be only 8 degrees below zero). If this is the beginning of winter, I hate to think what the middle will be like.

It’s definitely a good time to stay indoors, drink hot chocolate and read a good book – or watch a good movie. Well-fed and warmed, I can only try to appreciate how comfortably I will spend the winter (even if I do have to take the dog for walks in sub-zero weather sometimes), compared to how it used to be in the ages long ago that produced the world’s midwinter traditions.