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Travels of a Trucker…One Nasty Storm!

November 23, 2011

One Nasty Storm Brewed Up!

Last year I had the privilege…or stupidity…depending on if you talked to me or my other half of being caught in a freak storm. It was winter, but typically the area that I was driving is not known for voracious storms and most especially Black Ice and Freezing rain. Sure it snows a couple of times a year but generally the rain washes it away a couple of hours later. It seems that whoever said it is globally warming has been incorrect!

Last year and this year have been treacherous driving through the mountains. As a matter of fact the Coquihalla has been consistently on chain up status for what seems like 2 weeks now. Usually the surrounding areas are kept at a higher temperature because of the Pacific Ocean moisture, but for the last 2 years, it hasn’t had the same effect that it would typically have. Last year as I said was particularly bad for the lower areas. Freezing rain from Chilliwack to Yale and non stop snow. If hell exists it would certainly have been pretty chilled.

Driving along last year getting caught in a freak storm at about 4am which was not the most ideal situation I like to be in. Driving along and feeling the tires slide off the road or watching the trailer sliding towards the cab or towards the ditch is also not a great feeling. Now being a driver who has a great sense of impending doom in my gut which means I back it right down, I went a lot slower than I normally would be considering I was on the highway. As a matter of fact, when I felt the first little slide of the truck I knew there was gonna be some trouble a brewing and trouble is what I saw. It came with a reckoning and behind the wheel of the truck my instincts kicked in. I knew I was on Black Ice. I knew it cause every time I let off the throttle and heard the jakes I could hear them go from a dull bah…bah…bah….to a quick and awful sounding gurgling sound as they die off. Why you ask? Because there is no road traction for the jakes to be effective. So each time I did that, I watched my trailer and as I saw my trailer starting to do a little slide, I would give it a tiny bit of throttle to straighten it out and this is what I kept doing until my speed was well into the low teens which is way more manageable than trying it at 80-100 on the highway. I then put my four way flashers on and crept along until I reached the safest exit where I knew there was a truck stop. I sat there watching emergency crews going the opposite way I had come up so I knew the treacherous conditions had struck. I sat until daylight came up at that truck stop.

Daylight Comes

By the time daylight approached and I felt confident to venture back out on the highway I saw that it was a complete mess. Cars and trucks everywhere on the road. The road I could now clearly see was just a sheet of skating ice. From Chilliwack all the way to Abbotsford was a complete skating zone with everything that ventured too quickly headed into the rhubarb. I could see trucks that had done complete 180 turns on the highway who were now facing the wrong way in the meridian. I could see cars down 20 foot embankments and others who were stretched across the embankments like they had tried to do a long jump and failed miserably.

The road conditions I can certainly say with all honesty were crap but given experience and practice I knew instinctively that it is always best to go slow in these types of conditions. The following pictures show how some of the roads looked.

Can you see the car in this picture down the embankment?

I stopped for a break here to take this pic. The fresh snow was just covering a sheet of ice.

Anyways, the point of this Travel Tale is that Black Ice in the winter is always a real danger. It can be anywhere and strike without warning.

Conditions to look for when travelling are as follows:

The road looks shiny or it can shimmer from the brake lights of another vehicle

The road looks wet but there is no spray coming up from a vehicle that is traveling ahead of you

The road feels slippery as if your drifting away from a certain point or drifting towards something you don;t want to be drifting towards like the ditch.

The tires don’t make any more spray (picture driving through a rainstorm and the spray from your drives kicking up and suddenly there is nothing coming up)

The times when Black Ice is usually present is from 3am until 9am (the coolest time long after the sun has set and the wetness has now frozen and the morning before the sun has had time to thaw it out)

Thanks for reading Travels of a trucker. If you enjoy my stories and pictures, please follow along with me through email or Google connect.

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