Driving in snow by
10
(14 Stories)

Prompted By Snowy Days

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Because my father, who taught me to drive, was raised in New England, he taught me how to drive in the snow. It’s not really hard, but it seems to be beyond the abilities of most people where I live in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. They are not only unfamiliar with snow, but when confronted with snow they seem to forget simple laws of physics like gravity and momentum. This is the only place I have ever lived where any decent snowstorm causes people to panic and abandon their cars all over the streets.

This is the only place I have ever lived where any decent snowstorm causes people to panic and abandon their cars all over the streets.

The worst time I can remember was several years ago when I was working in an office that was about a 30-minute drive from my home. One day, it started to snow started just as people were leaving their offices. It was unexpected, either in timing or intensity – I don’t remember – and the rush hour traffic kept the snow plows from being able to clear the roads. So the snow started to build up on the roads, leading to widespread panic.

I was only a few blocks from my office, driving slowly in my very reliable all-wheel-drive Subaru, when the traffic came to a stop. A car was stuck sideways, blocking an entire intersection. I went up to the car and knocked on the window – I do this as I have found that people around here have no idea that shifting down to first gear can help you get out of snow (or even know their car has a first gear). The woman in the driver’s seat stared straight ahead and ignored me – she must have been embarrassed or thought I was going to yell at her. So I and everyone else waited our turn and slowly maneuvered around her. The next few people blocking the road seemed more willing to accept help so I and a few other desperate commuters pushed them out of the snow.

A couple of hours had passed when I came to a hill that was covered with stranded cars, most of which had been abandoned. There was no room to get a running start, so I had to trust that my Subaru would make it up the hill, maneuvering around the cars, hoping I didn’t slide into any of them. By this time, there were no other cars moving on the road that I could see. I did make it up the hill, even though the snow was more than a few inches deep on the road by then. I had to pass by someone trying to dig their car out because I was afraid if I stopped on the hill to help, I would be stranded too.

When I finally made it home that night, it was about 10:30 pm. I was very grateful that I had a car that was good in snow and that my father had taught me how to deal with snow safely.

As a side note, once I was on a cross-country ski trip with a group of friends. We were staying in a house in West Virginia that was located in a development of vacation homes. The roads in the development were apparently private roads and had not been plowed by the time we got there, although it had been snowing for several hours. The house where we were staying was on top of a hill and most of my friends’ cars couldn’t make it up the snow-covered road. So they left their cars at the bottom of the hill and those of us who had cars that could make it had to ferry everyone else up to the house. After I brought the last person up, I parked my car in the driveway next to the two other cars that had made it up the hill. All three were Subarus.

Profile photo of Kathy Porter Kathy Porter


Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Marian says:

    I admire your skill and applaud the Suburu, Kathy. I’ve used that first-gear technique to maneuver my way to college for a midterm exam (here in California) after a freak ice storm. The freeways were stopped, so I drove through a steep canyon road in first gear, knowing that at least I wouldn’t encounter other cars. In high school, a bunch of us went to a party at friend’s home, with a large circular driveway downhill from the street. It started snowing, and by the time the party ended, we couldn’t get the cars out. One talented guy rocked and gunned each car until they all were back on the street. Belated thanks, Jeff!

    • Kathy Porter says:

      I know — most people don’t know first gear exists, but it can be very helpful. I have my father to thank for that too. He insisted on teaching all his kids to drive a manual transmission. I’m glad to hear you do that too!

  2. Fun story Kathy, altho I guess it was a little tense for you at the time, but luckily you are a helluva driver!

    When we bought a weekend house in the Connecticut foothills we bought a Subaru too, and indeed it’s gotten us up some very snowy hills!

  3. Suzy says:

    Very impressive account of snow driving, Kathy. Since I know you were living in South Carolina when you were in high school, I’m surprised your father thought to teach you how to drive in snow. Maybe he knew you would be moving north. Love that you tried to tell people who were stuck that they should shift into first gear, and your observation that people don’t even know their car has a first gear, lol. You should definitely do a commercial for Subaru!

    P.S. If you want to read my story, it’s on page 2 – we have so many stories this week, they don’t all fit on the homepage.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Brava, Kathy! I know from my friend from the midwest who now lives in Bethesda how a bit of snow can shut things down. It’s probably more dangerous to drive through a moderate snowfall in a climate not used to snow than to battle a real blizzard. Sadly, with climate change people are going to have to learn.

    • Kathy Porter says:

      My friends from the midwest (and the northeast) are the only ones I would ride with on a snowy trip. You have to have that experience. Thanks!

      • Living in NYC and Connecticut we’re used to driving in snow and ice. but folks do complain and of course there are always cold weather accidents, and schools and other venues sometimes are forced to close and events might be cancelled.

        But of course it’s what you’re used to – I lived upstate in Buffalo for a year and when it snowed the plows hit the streets, we dug out our cars , and headed for work per usual.

        And after dinner we went to the local ski slope and skied under the lights!

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Excellent story about what it takes to drive through snow (both skill and a good car), Kathy. That drive through Maryland sounds harrowing. Your father taught you well.

    I was in D.C. on business once, many years ago, on Valentine’s Day. I had an appointment the next day, but called a college buddy and asked if we could meet the evening before. He had a dinner date, but was happy to take me out for a drink. It started snowing, and just as you described, everyone lost their minds, except Paul, who grew up in South Boston and was a former marine. He had no patience for any of this nonsense, drove around everyone (and this was in the District), yelling at everyone as he went. Just thinking about the scene again makes me smile. We were fine, of course; I think those he screamed at were a bit taken aback.

    I have always lived in snowy territory and write about three major snow events in my story, which is now on Page 2.

  6. Your vivid description of that drive home from the office, all those agonizing hours full of details that were almost palpable, truly brought me vicariously into the scene and I was happy when it was over!

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