In light of the current weather conditions here in Melbany, I thought it would be prudent to re-post this piece. I wrote it right around this time of year last year (the big tipoff was the reference to reindeer jammie pants, like my candy cane antlers, I only wear those in December).

We're having one hell of an ice storm in Albany right now, and according to the weather report on the news, it's not just us. Snow, sleet and ice are piling up from Poughkeepsie to the Adirondacks. With the predicted heavy icing, I fully expect to get called out tonight for downed power lines or worse. In fact, I'm wearing my heavy " the only ones that make my fire boots fit" heavy ski socks as I type this. My keys, pager, cell phone and boots are lined up near the front door and will remain there until I get up for work in the a.m.

My ride home from work today was The White Knuckle Express. I'm not normally worried about MY driving, it's the other drivers who scare me. To wit: I live in a small village in a pretty rural area Southwest of Albany. There are two options to get to my takes me WAY out of my way from downtown, the other is a much more direct route, but the main artery includes one MONSTROUS downhill followed immediately by an Alp-like climb. The key to negotiating this hill in adverse weather conditions is (drumroll please) do not touch your brakes. It's a pretty straight shot downhill. As long as there isn't anyone ahead of you doing something foolish like slamming on their brakes and skidding off the road, you can usually take your foot off the gas, take a deep breath, use your Kung-fu grip on the steering wheel , whisper a silent prayer and off you go..... You can't slow yourself down because you won't have enough forward momentum built up to scale the climb on the other side. All of this is completely valid, until you add ice into the mix, at which point there ARE no rules for negotiating Rt. 155. I made the hill, but not because of any spectacular driving skills on my part. It was sheer luck, mixed in with a soupcon of equal parts bravado and stupidity. I had so much adrenaline built up in my system by the time I got home all I could taste in my mouth was tin foil.

My point is this: Ice is nasty stuff. If we get called out tonight, I have two drivers in my department that I pray show up to drive first, because I know they'll drive with the conditions in mind and won't do anything stupid.
When you're dealing with ice, you're dealing with a ruthless opponent. Lives can be irrevocably changed in the blink of an eye or a hastily applied brake. Be safe, be smart, drive mindfully, wear your seatbelt, don't become the problem.

Dec. 11, 2008

We had a lovely ice storm last night here in Smallbany, which forced me to spend several more hours than I care to discuss chipping and scraping two inches of sheet ice from the driveway so that I could get to an appointment today. (And you missed my interpretation of An American Ballet on Ice trying to get around the back of the van...did you know you can cruise at 25 mph in slippers on a 10 degree incline on blacktop? Did you know that the chances of your neighbor witnessing this is multiplied by the number of reindeer on the ridiculous jammie pants you wore outside because you'd only be out there "for a minute" ?)

All of this got me to thinking about driver safety, specifically as it applies to emergency services. See, most of us with half a brain (and for those of us with split personalities, and we know who we are, {what? did you say something??} divide that by quantum mass) see that there is ice on the road, there are multiple pileups on the highway and it's a free-for-all rodeo on the local roads and make the intelligent decision to brew another cup of tea, take a closer look at the daily newspaper and wait it out.

First responders don't have that luxury. You have to get there, and you want to get there in one piece, but your radio snapped to life, it's a big one, and your adrenaline just amped through the roof. Let's just say you make it to the station, and you have enough guys to make the call....I have two words for you....

Black Ice.

You'll never see it until the back end of your rig is suddenly in your lap. This is the season for it, ,so PLEASE...give your family and friends the gift of your continued existence.....If the roads were wet during the day, and the air temp has rapidly cooled to less than freezing, and you see that nasty little ground fog creeping around the edges of the road....slow down. Make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened and your tray table is in the upright and locked position and that all personal items are properly stowed (oh, sorry, that was me in another life). Black Ice is the great equalizer. I don't give a damn if you're the second coming of Richard Petty or Ricky Bobby, you can't beat black ice, but you can survive it if you slow the hell down.

Originally published December 2008

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Comment by Jeff Ripley on December 18, 2008 at 9:03pm
Please, Please, Please, wear your seatbelt, always! Set the example for the newbies rather than show them how easy it can be to become a statistic!
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on December 17, 2008 at 11:35am
For Thursday, December 18:
Freezing rain that will develop to one inch thick, followed by 6 - 8 inches of snow.
Sounds like pay day will be more like sleigh day.
I wish I could sit at home and make money.
Like Tiger.:)
Comment by 144Truck on December 17, 2008 at 11:11am
Well.... Let the Winter Games begin! Our brethren in New Hampshire, Maine, Mass, Vermont and the blog hostess and the brethren in New York got the first big shot this year. How many without power as of today? Looks like we in Connecticut and Eastern Mass. will get our chance this weekend with the possibility of TWO Nor' Easters ..... OOOOOHHHH the anticipation. (Said with great sarcasm and disgust) @#$%*!!!(
Comment by morris washburn on December 16, 2008 at 12:42pm
I live in the south now, was in western new york up till 2004 . yes I miss the good weather you all are having but NOT. Anyways, We have a few trucks w/seatbelts as most of them are taken out or just old . But we have a 2006 International and if I am behind the wheel ,the truck does not move till ALL are in belts ,that is not our sop just my means of getting there and comming home . Today we are having some freezing rain. Be safe all.
Comment by lisa on December 16, 2008 at 8:58am
well it is -17 right now. thought for sure we would have gone out this weekend . ya all stay safe and man is it cold
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on December 15, 2008 at 3:25pm
Yesterday, it got up to 52 degrees here.
Last night, the temps dropped 30 degrees and we got freezing rain, sleet, then snow.
This morning, traffic looked like they were doing the Nutcracker Suite. They were spinning and leaping.
I drove 63 miles to my work place on ice, snow packed, slush and more ice. People who LIVE in town called in because of the weather.
In hindsight, maybe I should have. I would have if I'd taken my laptop home with me on Friday. Nuts.
You can drive on the crap if you use your head.
The biggest thing is allowing room between you and the cars ahead of you. Around here, everyone ones to ride each other's bumper, which is why there are NEVER single vehicle crashes. They are usually multi-car and chain reaction.
Comment by TOM KLEIST JR on December 15, 2008 at 11:26am
i like the back ice the frist one that is it we go to I65 all the time in wenter
Comment by Joe Stoltz on December 12, 2008 at 12:11pm
So McK -

ARE you wearing your seat belt, always, as instructed a year ago?
Comment by LadyChaplain on December 12, 2008 at 8:06am
Yeah, what Dave said...
Comment by Dave Gould on December 12, 2008 at 7:50am
My department had an unfortunate experience with black ice 9 years ago. It had snowed some earlier in the day but most of the roads were dry when we ventured out to do some training with a neighboring department. There is one spot on our major highway that just didn't get the same quanity or quality of sun as the rest of the roadway. I was ahead of the pack in my POV when one of my officers radioed me and said they came upon an mva, rollover. The next sentence frightened me to death, " I think its our ETA on its side in the middle of the road." I knew who was in the ETA, my 1st asst. chief, an adopted son and my own son. I couldn't get there fast enough. To make a longer story short, they encountered black ice and rolled the truck over. Wearing seatbelts has always been a policy of ours and luckily they were wearing them that night.

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