Officials Offer Advice for Driving in Wintry Weather

BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – Winter weather visited Jefferson County on Wednesday, January 8. It caused several small accidents, as well as a pile-up that temporarily closed a portion of Interstate 80 in Clarion County.

The most important thing to remember when heading out in wintry weather is to adjust your speed for conditions, said Chris Clark, Deputy Director of the Jefferson County Dept. of Emergency Services.

According to Clark, his trip to work on Wednesday morning took three times longer because of road conditions.

“You need to slow down and use more caution,” he told exploreJeffersonpa.com. “You also have to watch out for what other motorists are doing.”

If road conditions are unsafe, get off the road; however, Clark said do so carefully and make sure there is a safe place to pull over.

“It’s important to pull over in a safe location. If you don’t find a safe place, you can become a hazard sitting along the side of the road,” Clark said.

He recommends a parking lot or driveway.

If an individual is driving slowly or pulled over, use four-way flashers to let other motorists know the vehicle is there.

Clark also cautioned those who may be on foot to take extra care. After a fresh snowfall, a confused motorist could mistake a sidewalk for another lane of traffic. Traffic on slippery roads could also slide off the roadway onto the road shoulder or sidewalk where a pedestrian may be walking.

Clark suggests motorists prepare for the possibility of getting stuck in traffic or snow.

“It’s important to have something to keep you warm and something to drink. If you have diabetes, you may want to have something to eat with you. If you’re on a life-sustaining medication, you should have that with you,” Clark said.

William Logue, Deputy Director of Clarion County Emergency Management, said that when driving in a snow squall, it’s best to slow down. If driving at night, be sure to use low beams.

Logue suggested that drivers have some supplies in their cars for winter, just in case they get caught unexpectedly.

“A bag of kitty litter can be used for traction,” he said. “You may also want to have salt and a small shovel. If you get stranded somewhere, you may want a blanket and some snacks. You should be prepared to stay in your car for an hour or so.”

When hazardous weather conditions prevail, the National Weather Service releases watches, warnings, and advisories.

According to Meteorologist Jenna Lake, of the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, forecasters monitor the weather regularly to let the public know what they can expect.

In the approach of hazardous weather, the first advisory may be a winter storm watch.

“You can compare that to baking a cake,” Lake explained. “A watch is issued when you have all the ingredients you need to bake that cake, or in this circumstance to create that winter storm. It hasn’t come to fruition just yet, but you expect it will. That’s the watch.”

At this point, the bad weather is still just a possibility, not yet a sure thing.

The next step is a winter storm warning.

“That’s when those ingredients are coming to fruition,” Lake explained. “You should be prepared for that winter storm to happen. You’ve put your cake in the oven, and now you’re baking it. The winter storm is happening at that point.”

If you live in a county in which a winter storm warning is in effect, take precautions immediately.

Although, even if there are no watches, warnings, or advisories, keeping an eye on the weather is essential.

“Because things are always changing,” Lake said. “Even if the area remains under a winter storm warning, the details of that warning or the time when it arrives could change.”

The most dangerous combination can be what is known as a wintery mix. That’s snow, ice, and rain.

In that situation, PennDOT recommends motorists avoid traveling, if possible.

For those who must be on the road, PennDOT suggests the following:

• Slow down gradually and drive at a speed that suits the conditions.
• Turn on your headlights.
• Stay in your lane.
• Increase your following distance.
• Stay alert, keep looking as far ahead as possible, and be patient.
• Reduce in-car distractions since your full attention is required.
• Use defroster and wipers.
• Keep windows and mirrors free of snow and ice.
• During whiteouts, come to a complete stop only when you can safely get as far off the road as possible.
• Use four-way flashers when traveling slowly.
• Do not stop in the flow of traffic since this could create a chain-reaction collision.
• Do not pass a vehicle moving slowly or speed up to get away from a vehicle that is following too closely.

Lake admitted that sometimes weather predictions don’t pan out.

“It’s better to be safe rather than sorry,” she said. “Generally, we are pretty conservative with the headlines that we put out because we are protecting life and property.”


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