Driving on Ice: One Truck Driver’s Chilling Experience Over the Holidays

January 26, 2013
By

Truck tracks in the ice.

An Icy Situation

By Gregory R.C. Hasman, Wild West Weather Contributor

The wind howled.  Sweat trickled down my left cheek bone.  The vehicle veered softly to the right, but fortunately the hands were able to steer her back on the right path. Minutes later, the pavement grew more slippery, hands turned white, and my blood pressure hit an all-time high. There was no light. Thoughts of mortality conjured up. “Please God, let me find a place to stay,” I spoke out loud.

Welcome to the world of driving on ice, one of the most dangerous road conditions.

On a recent trip to the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico I experienced various forms of weather, including high winds, blinding sun, and cold temperatures, but all paled in comparison to my experience of driving in icy road conditions along the dark, mysterious Texas Highway 114 from Seymour to Jacksboro, Texas.

Although I grew up in Brooklyn, New York where snow and ice visited on occasion during the winter, I never drove in these conditions as I did not acquire my driver’s license until late 2005. Months later, I relocated to Houston, Texas, where it generally rains in the wintertime with occasional, but rare ice storms.

In mid-2012, I started graduate school at the University of North Texas in Denton.  While the weather was less humid and cooler, people warned me to expect a different type of winter weather. “Greg, you may need a jacket or two,” was common advice.

On this trip to the Panhandle, I wanted to be in the wide open space. However, I did not listen to the weather reports until Christmas Eve.  After staying the night in Lubbock, I drove onto Loop 289 and suddenly wondered if I was auditioning for the Ice Capades.

As I drove east onto US 82 and Texas 114, things were getting better. Although I dealt with some remnants of a dust storm, the conditions began to clear and things were normal…for a while. The sun turned to clouds and dusk. Roads began to turn slushy and I decreased my speed. Snow appeared on the farms to the north and south. The wind continued to howl. As I reached Seymour, the roads turned icy in spots. A steady 40 miles an hour was not too bad at this juncture. However, conditions deteriorated after each passing mile.

Suddenly, the truck began to swerve to the right. Then I remembered what my mom told me, “Avoid hitting the brakes if the car begins to spin.” It was hard to concentrate on past advice and drive at the same time as the truck was swerving in and out of my lane for the better part of the next 20 minutes. I lowered my speed to 20 miles an hour.

My heart was racing. At that point, the only Christmas present I wanted was a hotel room for the night. From Seymour to Jacksboro on a good day is over an hour. However, it took me two and a half hours and ten deep breaths to make it to the Butterfield Inn along 114. I finally arrived, surprisingly in one piece.

A few rule of thumbs for dealing with icy road conditions:

  1. If you begin to swerve, do not hit the accelerator or hit the brakes hard; brake gently and steer the wheel in the direction you are going.
  2. Keep your headlights on low beams. Treat driving on ice like you would fog.
  3. If you see normal patches of road surrounded by snow, BE CAREFUL. You are most likely driving on black ice, which is tricky and dangerous.
  4. According to Edmunds.com, running the air conditioner also helps as it will remove condensation and frost from the inside of the automobile.
  5. For more tips and suggestions on driving on ice, I highly recommend: http://www.edmunds.com/car-safety/driving-on-snow-and-ice-10-safety-tips.html)

Happy travels!

 

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