Here on the Oregon Coast we are accustomed to fairly balmy weather. We rarely see snow at our altitude and it is discussion-worthy if we drop below freezing. ,These past couple of weeks have given all of us reasons to re-think our winter driving habits and how we approach snowy mornings. Our local counties don’t bother with buying snow removal gear, so when it does snow, schools close, people don’t go to work and those who do show up are either lauded for their bravery or chastened for their foolishness.
One family friend spent 16 hours stranded with her eight-year old daughter in the Portland area. Icy roads, snow and total gridlock shut down the entire city and surrounding area. Fortunately her gas tank was on full when the adventure began and she was wise enough to ration her gasoline by starting her car to warm up only when absolutely necessary. Another person I heard of lives on the east side of Portland and works a few miles west of the city. He made it to work by mid-afternoon on Monday and stayed in a motel through Thursday night because of the dangerous travelling conditions.
I grew up in Nebraska and can’t remember staying home through the worst blizzards. School may have been released early to send the students home on the bus, but society simply did not come to a standstill because of a little snow, ice and wind. Simply put, the local governments were equipped with snow removal equipment and the locals knew to adjust their driving habits when the roads turned slick.
The best advice for motorists is simply “stay home!” You can’t have an accident, contribute to the gridlock or get stranded at the side of the road if you call off the trip. Some of the toughest decisions I have had to make involve cancelling a trip, especially if someone else is counting on you to be at a particular function 200 miles from home. Pilots have been known to suffer from a disease known as “get home-itis” when they are gone from home and bad weather sets in. The wrong decision can be more than inconvenient. Crashing an airplane has been known to have serious consequences. Better to remain overnight in an airport lounge than become the object of a search party.
I have become fond of a quote that keeps popping up on social media: Good judgement comes from experience, and experience often comes from bad judgement. I have also learned it is best to learn to profit from other peoples’ mistakes.
Bottom line is this; if you find yourself travelling in winter conditions, take along some extras. A blanket or two, something to eat, maybe a thermos of coffee and for goodness sake, a full tank of gas. Of course tire chains, maybe a tow strap, a charged-up cell phone and your paid-up auto club membership. Then before you go, do what pilots do, let somebody know where you are going, the route you will be taking and an estimated time of arrival. That way we’ll know where to send the search party.
As always, send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave.@gmail.com. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the Postmaster in Bandon, Oregon, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.