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February 4, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Driving in Winter Weather is Dangerous…Here are a Few Safety Tips

Parts of the South are getting hit hard again today with freezing rain and sleet which can make for hazardous driving conditions. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term “black ice” before which refers to a thin coating of ice on the roadways that is very hard to see. It can make bridges and overpasses especially dangerous for travelers since it forms there first.

Black ice forms on bridges and overpasses first because the air can circulate both above and below the elevated roadway, causing the pavement temperature on the bridge to drop more rapidly. This photo was taken in Beaumont, Texas where most city overpasses are covered with ice this morning. Photo: KFDM

Driving conditions today could be quite hazardous across Texas and parts of the Deep South as temperatures will struggle to get above freezing across some areas. The arctic air mass remains in place today with temperatures running 20 degrees below average for this time of year. Even parts of central and north Texas, northwest Louisiana and southwest Arkansas could see afternoon highs as much as 28-32 degrees below normal. Light freezing rain/sleet can also be expected through around midday with ice accumulations of ¼ to ½ inch possible over parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama into Tennessee. Definitely be careful on the roadways not only today but also into early Saturday as temperatures are expected to remain below freezing across most areas that are seeing or have seen freezing rain/sleet.

Light freezing rain/sleet (indicated in purple) will continue to fall across portions of LA, MS, AL and TN. Below average temperatures (blue) are expected again today across much of the South-Central U.S. Breezy northerly winds (yellow) will continue along the Gulf Coast today which will actually make it feel even colder. Image: ImpactWeather

The best advice is to not drive if the roads are icy. However, I know there are certain situations that may not give you that option to stay home so here are a few tips.

  1. Watch out for black ice, especially on bridges and overpasses. Remember black ice is hard to see. Never slam on your brakes and keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Take more time to slow down for stop signs and red lights. It takes longer for your car to slow down when the roads are icy. Also, don’t accelerate too fast once the light turns green.
  3. Don’t drive too fast. You’ll need to slow down when the roads are snowy or icy. Give yourself a little more time to get to your destination.
  4. Use caution when going up and down hills. If the roads are iced over or covered with snow, it’s probably best to go an alternate route. If you apply too much gas going up a hill your wheels could start spinning and if you’re going down a hill too fast and start skidding it might be hard to stop.
  5. Brake gently in slow, steady strokes to see how much traction you have. Remember to start braking early when you’re approaching an intersection or a stop.
  6. Never use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  7. Check your treads on your tires. If you’re driving and your tires lose traction and your car begins to skid, immediately let off the gas and do not brake. Turn the wheel in small increments in the same direction that you want the front end to go until you regain control and can proceed at a safer speed.

 Here are some other good tips.

Icy roads this week led to several 18-wheeler accidents on I-35 in Dallas. Temperatures are expected to stay below freezing through tomorrow. Overnight the Dallas-Fort Worth area received up to 6 inches of snow making driving conditions even more dangerous. Photo: Dallas Morning News

The weather will improve as we head into the weekend across most of the south with temperatures also modifying across the area. Most places that won’t get above freezing today (like the Dallas area) will see temperatures warm up almost 20 degrees tomorrow with highs in the low 40’s expected. Of course the low 40’s is still pretty cold, but not as cold as their projected daytime high today of only 28ºF. The big story on everyone’s mind in North Texas is the “big game” on Sunday. I’m sure fans will be glad Cowboys Stadium has a roof and they can enjoy the game warm inside. Tailgaters on the other hand will have to brave the cold with highs only expected to reach 45ºF but it will be mostly sunny with south winds 10-15 mph. Overnight lows will dip back down in the upper 20’s into early Monday morning.

Snow (indicated in white) is expected across parts of the Northeast tomorrow as a low pressure system moves through the area. Snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches will be possible with up to 6 inches possible for portions of southern New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Maine. Freezing rain/sleet (purple) can also be expected in some areas with light ice accumulations. Elsewhere, the Northwest will also see some snow as a cold front moves through the area. They could see snow accumulations of 2-4 inches with isolated heavier amounts into the higher elevations. Image: ImpactWeather

Another wave of Arctic air will make its way southward by the middle of next week. Temperatures will be 20-32ºF below average for a good part of the central and eastern U.S. Watch the latest video.

Another major winter storm next week? Image: ImpactWeather

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