January 7, 2011

Skidding on Thin Ice Camouflaged by New-Fallen Snow




     Last night—January 5, 2011—enroute home from Greensburg (Pennsylvania) shortly after 7:00 p.m., the car skidded off the road onto an embankment.

     The road was covered with thin ice camouflaged by a thin shell of the newly fallen snow. We were at a hillcrest in about thirty feet west of the entrance to Wimmerton (a housing development in Unity Township, Pennsylvania).


     The evening started well. I finally had the opportunity to fulfill the gift certificate I’d given my granddaughter, Jordan, for her Thanksgiving time 13th birthday: dinner out at a restaurant of her choice. It had taken a while: illness, a freezing-snowy weather streak in December, and the holidays delayed this celebration. Jordan chose the Red Lobster in Greensburg.

     We planned on going to the mall after dinner—Jordan was itching to spend her holiday money. I had told her we’d head home if the predicted snow began. All during dinner, she kept watch of the weather: Snowing (lightly). Not snowing. The weather held enough that at 6:00 I felt we could risk some mall time.

     We were there less than forty-five minutes. There was no snowing when we entered. When we exited, our car was covered with the fresh-falling snow. Our hands became cold while we were wiping the windows clear.

     As I drove down the road, Jordan noted that I was driving slightly to the right of the road.

     “You’re not driving on the road,” she informed me.

     I explained that the roads were somewhat slick, and there was more tire traction in the off-center snow. Just before the rise taking us to Wimmerton I noted that the roads looked better.

     Suddenly the car skidded. I managed to control the skid sufficiently that the car didn’t go into the opposing traffic, but instead skidded into an embankment. As we waited for an opening in the oncoming traffic I looked in my rearview mirror and saw another car do the same thing I’d done, only it skidded further up the embankment.

     When a traffic break came I gingerly backed the car up and drove to the entrance of St. Xavier’s (cemetery?). There were two other cars there. The occupants came to see if we okay and we began talking. Cell phones were out, 911 was being called, as we yelled up the road to ascertain if anyone was hurt in the other skid. A call came back that they were okay, and they gingerly drove their car to St. Xavier’s entrance.

     Meanwhile, Jordan was reacting to the incident as only a dramatic 13 year old can. She called her mother, who had been a paramedic. We agreed I wouldn’t leave our safe spot until a salt truck came. One of “us” at the roadside was a fireman, who said he had called for a salt truck, which he could do in his position. Before I could call Monte, a salt truck drove by. I cautiously entered the road during a traffic break, and made it to Ligonier, driving thirty-five or less miles per hour. In the Chestnut Ridge “cut,” a line of traffic remained behind me (only one car passed), which reassured me that everyone wanted to drive safely under the road conditions.

     We stopped at Ligonier Tavern so I could regroup and recover after the tense drive. Jordan wanted to leave, so after about fifteen minutes we did. Before we did, they sang a belated Happy Birthday to her. Also, Dmitri offered to drive behind us as we continued on to Laurel Mountain Borough. His intention was to reassure Jordan that she would be safe, and that if anything happened, someone would be Johnny on the spot to help. I told Dmitri we would be okay, partially to keep him off the road too. The remainder of the ride home was on pretty clear roads. As we neared the Borough, I told Jordan all was well:

     “If we skid into a ditch here, we can walk home.”

     I tried to calm Jordan by making a list of all the positive things about our experience:

  • no one was hurt
  • the vehicles weren’t damaged
  • I was able to somewhat manage the skid
  • we skidded into a hillside rather than into opposing traffic
  • we skidded far enough off the road that we were safe
  • no other cars skidded where we were, so we weren’t in additional harm.
  • the car that skidded behind us didn’t hit us
  • the incident happened at a spot where we had off-road refuge we could get to
  • there was an emergency person (off duty) present who had the authority to call a salt truck
  • people were supportive of each other
  • the salt trucks arrived promptly

Jordan added one good thing:

  • there was no guard rail along the road
  • we made it home safely

Of course, there were bad points:

  • we had to wait for a line of traffic to pass before we could resituate our car to safety
  • we questioned if we should proceed on: perhaps we should spend the night in the safe spot?
  • the tires on the passing vehicles were sliding rather than rolling

     During the ride home, Jordan and I discussed whether we’d had a wreck or just a “skid.” Our definitions were different: to her, a wreck meant the car lost control. To me, it was a skid—no damage was done.

     And that is our story of driving in inclement winter weather, which presented a lesson for a young girl who, in several years, will have a driver’s license: caution, always caution, with knowledge and attention prime factors for a driver.



Hazardous Winter Driving on Atlanta’s Roads

Only Space Aliens Look Forward to Winter




January Catalogues Lead to June Gardens




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  1. Soooooooooooo sorry you had to experience such a traumatic night! On the extremely bright side, you are ok, Jordan is ok, and the car is not in for repairs. I would say that you had someone watching over you!

    Comment by Fran Welts — January 7, 2011 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  2. Carolyn – I meant to add that did you know your cell phone should have emergency number filed under ICE?(In case of emergency) Most paramedic and police now look for phone contacts on cell phones but its hard to know who to phone since most of us do not file full names – they recommend we all file an emergency contact number as ICE and if we need more just go ICE1, ICE2, etc. just a note to help

    Comment by Fran Welts — January 9, 2011 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

    • Great hint, Fran. For me and everyone else out there. What do you do when you don’t know how to program your phone????

      Comment by carolyncholland — January 9, 2011 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

      • Ask someone who does to program it for you!!!!

        Comment by Fran Welts — January 9, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

  3. I’ll remember that the next time I see you!

    Comment by carolyncholland — January 9, 2011 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

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