An Icy Commute

2011-12-22 00:06:33.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

Madison dividing western snow and eastern rain.

Today’s commute to work was interesting/scary/slick/awful. If you live in New Hampshire and did any driving today, you might be thinking at least one of these things as an ice storm wreaked havoc on several motorways across the state throughout the day turning usually bustling thoroughfares into parking lots at times. The south got the brunt of it this morning followed by the north during the afternoon. At last toll, some 100+ accidents have been reported around the state from this one storm. So, if it didn’t end up affecting your commutes, consider yourself lucky. We were not so lucky.

The icy commute for me started as I came up Route 16 from Berlin. As I passed Pinkham B, a thin coating of glaze icy started to coat the road. Cars in front of me stopped kicking up spray from their tires and started to get the slight fishtail action that comes with black ice. So I slowed my progression as motorist jetted past me in their huge SUV’s as if they were immune to the ice. I have AWD as well but from personal experience in my family, even I know that they’re vulnerable to black ice. After a slow crawl, I eventually arrived at the base as did everyone else and we started up. Our truck and van both have 4WD as well as beefy chains on them to get us up the mountain usually without a problem. But as we headed up the first pitch of the road, the truck and the van I was in started to spin out and fishtail as we struggled up the icy incline. Luckily, after we got some momentum, we were able to get up this initial pitch and the rest of the mountain with only a few slips here and there. Of course, normally a few slips here and there doesn’t usually make my heart nestle in my throat but when those little slips are near a drop off of several hundred to thousands of feet, that’s a different story. Add to this dense fog (here you can see Brian using his goggles to try and see through the white) and some snow drifts and it made for a white knuckle ride up (for me at least).

We eventually made it up and then it was the other shifts turn. It’s one thing to crawl up an icy mountain but it’s a whole other event to try and crawl down it. Since I wasn’t with them, I’m not entirely sure how the entire ride went but there was definitely a lot more radio chatter than usual as they talked their way down in the truck and van. Eventually the van made it down but the truck was left close to the bottom until safer conditions arrive later this week to get it down in. While we escaped the day without any major incidents, it was definitely a memorable commute; something that had been lacking this season so far.


Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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