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Open Diff – your worst winter driving experience

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photo by Vetatur Fumare.

‘Tis the season. ‘Tis the season for slushy, skiddy, screamy white-knuckled times on the highway, that is. The season for determining the limits of your driving ability and of the capability of your tires. The season for budgeting a few hours for what should be a 15-minute round trip. The season for a nice snowy winter drive.

A good half of the comments in the recent Toronto carspotting article related some of your most miserable experiences driving through winter storms. Like PatW’s 5-mile trip through 20 inches of snow that took seven hours, or EdF’s five-hour 10-mile jaunt. Ted followed that up with his encounter with lake-effect snow:

Pat W was talking about lake-effect snow in Chicago, and until I ran into it first-hand one December, it was just some extra snow on the weatherman’s map on TV. Trying to get back to Michigan that Sunday evening was unbelievable. As the sun set, we went from 36 degrees F, sunny and calm, without a spec of snow downtown… to, about an hour later as we approached the Indiana line… 10 degrees F, 50-mph winds out of the north (across the entire length of not-yet-frozen Lake Michigan) with 10 inches and more coming at about an inch a minute (!). I then knew what “whiteout” meant, which was literally that. The defrosters in the Sprinter quit when the intake packed up with snow, and they closed the Interstate right behind us (I saw about five plow trucks going left to right in my rearview mirror), so we were the last people through who didn’t overnight at a truck stop or stuck on the highway.
After about two hours of 20 mph, riding a semi-trailer’s taillights with no heat and my head out the window(!), and the wife insisting I pull over, and me asking her ‘You want to spend the night out here? And part of tomorrow?’ we made it to Exit 16 in Michigan, where the weather was clear as a bell without an inch of snow.”

and Lion told a harrowing tale:

But coming out of Regina one night with an hour-and-a-half drive home and three kids in the back of our 1971 Cadi, we got into a whiteout situation that was bad enough that I could not see well enough to turn around and go back to the city. About a third of the way, the highway turns from south to south-east and conditions usually get better so we struggled on. A police car flew past us and I tried to keep up but it disappeared very quickly. When we turned south-east it got worse and my wife was looking out her window at the white line while I followed the yellow centerline. There was a line of cars on my tail and when I saw a white line out my side window I realized we were on the wrong side of the road and all the cars had followed me there. I pulled right until I was on the shoulder and slowed till the cars passed me and hooked on behind them. As we came around a bend a tow truck was pulling a station wagon off the highway with a smashed in front end. Then I saw lights pointing into the sky and asked my wife what it was. She said it was headlights. As we slowly drove by we saw the front half of the RCMP cruiser in the ditch, our headlights showed the back of the front seat. several yards further down was the crumpled rear section. We pulled in behind a big Jeep with a light rack on its roof and got home safely. There was not a word in the news about the accident we had passed, and I never asked.’

No doubt you’ve had your own brushes with disaster, regardless of where you live, so while much of the country’s hunkered down this winter, tell your tales of wintry drives gone awry.