Winter Weather is More Than a Travel Inconvenience


Common travel options in winter; air, auto and train, are impacted by weather. Most of us have memories of winter travel headaches. They can range from a longer commutes to significantly delayed holiday travel. Beyond delays, there are storms that create dangerous travel conditions and increase accidents. In less than 3 weeks time (mid- December 2021 to early January 2022) here are 2 examples of winter traveling nightmares in your car.

The first nightmare is the morning of December 23, 2021. According to KSTP in Minneapolis, Minnesota, freezing rain accumulated on Interstate 94 in Osseo County, Wisconsin. You can read more about it here. According to the article, around 40 vehicles were involved in the accident on the interstate with only injuries and damaged vehicles.

The second nightmare is Monday January 3rd, 2022. Snow accumulated rapidly in Virginia. It coincided with the Monday evening commute. Over 50 miles of Interstate 95 closed due to more than a foot of accumulation. Some commuters were stranded, in their cars, for up to 30 hours according to this CNN article. That is a scenario most of us want to avoid. If you are delayed and sitting in your car during cold weather, it is wise to have a winter survival kit in your car. According to the Red Cross here are some suggestions for your car winter survival kit:

  1. Cell phone car charger
  2. Flashlight with extra batteries
  3. Blanket and/or emergency Mylar blanket
  4. Fleece hat, gloves, scarf
  5. Sand or cat litter
  6. Ice scraper and snow brush
  7. First aid kit
  8. Hand-crank weather radio
A red car crashed into the freeway medium. This has created a traffic jam for the other cars.

Being stuck in your car for several hours during a winter storm is not ideal. However, what if you are in an accident? In any automobile incident, it is important to know the weather conditions in the hours and minutes leading up to the accident. Certified Consulting Meteorologists research and write forensic reports on vehicle accidents across the country. It is very important for the client to know beyond a reasonable degree of meteorological certainty, answers to questions like, not limited to:

  1. Was there precipitation at the time of the incident?
  2. What type of precipitation?
  3. What time did the precipitation start and end?
  4. How much accumulation occurred at the incident site?
  5. What was the visibility at the site?
  6. What were the temperatures?
  7. Were untreated road surfaces dry, wet or icy?
  8. How much advance notice was there of the weather conditions?
  9. Was this weather information easily accessible?

Both of the above scenarios are big headaches. If your forecast calls for snow and ice, please evaluate how that may impact your travel. Be proactive and know the forecast. Use that information to decide if it is best to cancel a trip, delay a trip or move forward with your schedule.

Mark McGinnis is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist with over 25 years of meteorological experience. He has been retained as a weather expert in county and federal courts across the United States.