The New Year started with a bang and a blanket of snow for the Midwestern United States, as the entire Ohio Valley and points west saw a sudden and unexpected snow squall sweep through.

For anyone who has not successfully completed an online traffic school (preferably a comedy traffic school) this meant a dangerous morning commute followed by an equally dangerous drive home from work in the evening. The snow wasn’t deep, but it was unexpected, meaning road crews were having a hard time getting the roads clear in a timely basis.

Because weather forecasters had mostly failed to predict heavy snowfall for today, many road crew personnel were off for an extended holiday weekend, meaning there were few snow plows and salt trucks on the road when the snow began to pile up. Fortunately the snow started falling heavy early enough to give crews a chance to get started before the rush hour began, but many early risers took the brunt of the poor driving conditions.

The Ohio Department of Transportation was busy calling in drivers to handle the snow at 5 a.m. this morning, in an effort to get the highways clear, but despite these efforts nearly a dozen cars had gone off the road as a result of the snowy conditions by 9 a.m. Interstate 71 and Interstate 275 were both closed as a result of vehicle crashes caused by the snow.

In Indianapolis, dozens of weather related vehicle crashes were reported throughout the day and highways all around the city were closed as crews struggled to keep up with the changing, and worsening driving conditions.

There is no substitute for excellent defensive driving skills when the weather turns ugly. Highway crews do their best to keep the roads clear and safe, but even without snow piles the going is dangerous. Black ice is a common problem; when the ice on the road is dark colored and hardly visible to oncoming drivers, usually in areas where the wind is strongest across the roadway, presenting a dangerous slick spot when the drivers least expect it.

If you live in an area where unpredictable winter weather is, well, predictable, it is best to take precautions on your own. Be certain you have proper air pressure in your tires, and be certain to check the condition of your spare. Also keep a snow scraper and battery cables in your trunk, and don’t plan and getting any where in a hurry. It is always better to arrive at your destination safe and late, than to not arrive at all.

Image: dan /