Monday, January 13, 2020
Snow, ice, and off-road excursions
Last weekend Miss D. and I drove to a seminar held at a lakeside resort east of Gainesville, TX. Unfortunately, that coincided with the arrival of a rare snowstorm. Our normally safe roads were suddenly covered with 2-3 inches of snow, with patches of ice forming beneath the snow, invisible until you hit it.
This was US Highway 82 near Gainesville at about 8 AM on Saturday morning. The photograph looks clearer than conditions actually were, and doesn't capture the snow falling fairly thickly. The car was distinctly "twitchy" over the slush in the tire ruts.
A drive that normally takes 2 hours took us over 3, traveling much more slowly than usual. Shortly after turning off US 82, we hit a patch of black ice underneath snow cover. I lost control of the car in a heartbeat. We skidded across the oncoming lane (very fortunately, it was unoccupied at the time) and off the road onto the very wet, muddy verge. Luckily, I had traction control switched on at the time, so our vehicle was able to keep moving as it sprayed mud and water in all directions. We eased back onto the highway, to find that we'd passed the icy patch, and were able to go on with no damage or casualties other than our suddenly elevated heart rates.
This was the first time I'd hit ice like that while driving (my experience with snow and ice is extremely limited). I'm glad it ended painlessly! I wasn't driving fast (probably one reason why the car wasn't damaged), and in future I'll be even more careful. Coming back the same way a few hours later, we were both impressed by the depth and length of the ruts our wheels had carved in the grass and mud. I'm glad the vehicle was able to take the strain, and not suffer worse damage. (At the car wash this morning, we left an impressive amount of mud behind us!)
Of course, this is north Texas, where, if you don't like the weather, just wait and watch. Six hours later, homeward bound on the same US 82, the road looked like this:
You wouldn't have thought that had been such a treacherous road surface, just a few hours before!