Thursday, October 9, 2008

Drive safely in the mountains

Drive safely in the mountains - 1
Originally uploaded by wsdot.

While we try to communicate the fact that winter arrives a mile high in the mountains earlier than it does in the lowlands – sometimes a personal testimony tells the story in a way we can’t.

I sent out the first e-mail of the season on Sept. 22 to people who are signed up to get the North Cascades Highway winter/spring (close/open) updates. I was advising of overnight snowfall, slush on the road and the expectation for more, and sharing our “key message” – It’s winter in the mountains – be prepared!

The weather since then hadn’t returned to “fall,” until this week when the second “snow” e-mail went out. The second e-mail prompted a response from a member who shared his experience after the first e-mail: How he totaled his new AWD Subaru, despite being: 1) a frequent traveler over the highway; 2) 25-plus years of experience driving in mountain snow; 3) and having read the e-mail update and expecting he might encounter weather.

"It was like nothing I'd ever seen...literally I crested the top of the pass and was in 2" of slush immediately. I braked and the backend fishtailed, got off the brakes and straightened it out and was headed for that 45mph left-hander near Bridge Creek and braked again hoping the ABS would do its job, and it was like being on ball-bearings. The car got sideways, I crossed the oncoming lane and slammed front-end first into an embankment and then started rolling once the tires caught the dirt. Had I hit 25' earlier I would've gone into a vertical rock wall, and 25' later would've t-boned the end of the oncoming guardrail...another 25' after where I stopped rolling would've wrapped me around a stand of trees. I got seriously lucky."

He eventually ended up in the hospital in Brewster where the verdict was no internal injuries, despite some world class seat belt bruises:

"Long story, short - the side curtain airbag probably saved my bacon and the car did very well in the rollover as far as driver protection. However, the lesson learned for me is that those passes can be highly unpredictable and obviously have their own micro-climates. It just pays to be very vigilant at this time of the year. There were flurries on Washington when I drove home at 2 pm yesterday...."

Please drive safely up there.

(Submitted by Jeff Adamson)


Anonymous said...

Had this vehicle been an old wagon, like a pinto or somethin, it would have held the road. i have one and can climb 25 degree inclines snowy and icy with no chains or problems.

Anonymous said...

When you wreck your old wagon while driving in the snow, be sure to send in pictures of it so we can compare the damage to the Subaru!

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