As 2015 comes to a close, we have seen a plethora of extreme weather events nationwide as a result of El Nino. In many Eastern cities, temperatures have been as high as 30 degrees above normal, while the West has been colder and wetter than it has been in years. A historic blizzard buried the southern Plains in heavy snow with wind gusts as high as 80 mph. Snow and ice spread into the central and northern Plains, the Great Lakes region and parts of the Northeast. Killer tornadoes swept through the South, killing more than 20 people from Texas to Tennessee. Heavy rains paralyzed parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Historic flooding shut down major roads across Missouri.
As we ring in the New Year, storms will take a little break across the nation as colder air expands southward and eastward. According to AccuWeather, even though no precipitation is in the outlook across much of the Midwest and Plains, there may still be trouble on many roadways nationwide. Major rivers will be on the rise and in flood stages over portions of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Melting and refreezing in areas where there is extensive snow cover can lead to icy spots from New Mexico and western Texas to Minnesota and northern New England.
Constantly changing temperatures, falling snow, sleet, rain, or a combination of all, can make driving quite hazardous. Before you hit the road make sure your vehicle is stocked with a “winter survival kit” – ice/snow scraper, blankets, warm clothing and gloves, spare tire, antifreeze, non-perishable food items, first aid kit. Check the weather conditions before getting on the roads. Decide if your trip important. If the storm is as bad as it sounds, you may wish to cancel plans or delay them. When there is no choice but to drive, even in severe winter weather, knowing how to do it safely is the driver’s obligation.
- Leave early, give yourself plenty of extra driving time to get to your destination, so that you don’t have to rush.
- Drive defensively. Be aware of your surroundings.
- The most frequent cause of auto accidents in winter is the same as other times of year – speed. Decrease your speed and leave plenty of room to stop, allowing at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding.
- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Do not use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
- Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses; remember that these surfaces are the first to freeze.
- Accelerate slowly to avoid loss of traction and control. Turn slowly, with caution, to avoid sliding.
- Avoid distracting such as using you cell phone or texting while driving.
No matter what the El Nino weather system brings to your area, please do your part this winter to ensure your own safety and the safety of others.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.