College Commuting, Part 2: The Winter Challenge

By Julio Avila

Many students find their way to school through all kinds of road conditions and weather.

In the first part of this segment, “College Commuting: Buses vs. Cars,”  students shared their preferred method of transport and their reasons why. With the winter season approaching and the chances of greater amounts of snowfall, students should plan ahead on how to get to school on time and safely, should there be any snow storms.

According to Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist from AccuWeather, the northeast region will be in for a blast of snow and frigid temperatures.

“The I-95 cities could get hit pretty well. It’s a matter of getting the cold to phase in with the huge systems that we are going to see coming out of the southern branch of the jet stream this year.”

Another factor that plays into this is “El Niño”, a weather pattern that consists of above normal water temperatures in the central and equatorial areas of the Pacific Ocean.

“El Niño winters feature a strong southern branch of the jet stream across the U.S. When the southern jet stream phases with the northern branch of the jet stream, big storms can impact the East,” said Meghan Evans, a meteorologist from AccuWeather.

Local town highway departments are the ones responsible for the removal of snow within their designated towns. Each town has different methods and equipment used in snow removal. The town contracts privately owned snow plowing companies or uses vehicles from their own reserves.

One of the companies that operates under contract in Suffolk County is The Snow-Fighters. The Snow-Fighters have been in business for the last 15 years. Their mission is to remove snow from commercial and residential areas so vehicles can move freely about in harsh winter conditions. According to the Snow Fighters, the equipment used in snow removal consists of trucks with snow plows, salters, back hoes, and skid loaders. They also help in de-icing streets by using a mixture of sand and salt and calcium chloride. In addition, they help in removing snow and de-icing sidewalks and loading dock areas.

The following are steps students should take in order to be ready when driving on the snowy and slippery roads in order to get to school safely:

1) Make sure your car has the needed equipment for the winter. Winter or all-season tires will provide sufficient grip and traction on snowy, slushy and icy roads. Replace worn wiper blades so you will have clear visibility when driving. Cleaning the windshield and windows with a water shedding fluid such as Rain-X will help keep your windows free of ice, but windshield wiper fluid is highly recommended, especially one that will melt ice off the windshield on contact in your car’s windshield cleaning system.

2) Make sure your engine has plenty of fresh motor oil to help keep the parts inside the engine lubricated and running smoothly as well as making sure your coolant system has enough anti-freeze/coolant to help keep your engine from freezing.

3) Check all your headlights, brights and rear lights to make sure they are all working in the event you need them at night or in heavy snowfall. Your lights will also help other motorists see you.

4) Before you begin to drive, turn on your car first for a few minutes as this will allow the engine to become warmed up and all parts in the motor lubricated with oil. Driving a car that is not warmed up can cause internal damage to the motor.

5) Once you start to drive, drive slower than you normally would. Even on the highways, one should not be speeding. Sure, it may be time consuming but it will save you the trouble from slipping and skidding out of control. Also, remember to use the lowest gear as this will help give you more traction on the icy roads.

6) Avoid bridges and overpasses as these tend to freeze quicker than the roads themselves. Planning alternate routes will be beneficial but if you must travel on a bridge or overpass, use caution and do not speed.

7) Chances are you will see snowplows and trucks sanding the roads. They travel slowly trying to rid the road of snow and ice. It is best to NOT pass these trucks as chances are, the road ahead will still be covered with snow and could be slippery since the snow plows and sanders have not reached those stretches of roads yet.

8) It is also best to give yourself ample space to brake so you can come to a complete stop safely. Braking instantly will make your car lose traction.

9) If your front wheels were to skid, release your foot off the gas pedal and shift to neutral. Don’t try to steer immediately. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and you will regain traction. As traction recovers, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently. If your rear wheels are the cause of a skid, release your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. For example, if your rear wheels are sliding right, steer to the right and vice versa. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side until your car is balanced. You might have to steer left and right a few times to fully get your vehicle under control.

If you are traveling by bus in snowy conditions:
1) It is best to leave your house earlier than you normally would to allow for extra time.

2) Watch each step you take as you make your way to the bus stop as there could be ice and thick snow along the way.

3) Expect buses to be delayed as bus operators try to navigate the roads safely with busloads of passengers.

4) Take a look at the bus schedules and see which bus you can take to get to the college with sufficient time. Perhaps an earlier bus will get you to the school with time to spare compared to the later scheduled bus you normally take which could end up being late in the traffic and snow.

5) At the bus stop, try to wait as close as you can to the stop around a spot that is easily accessible to the street and sidewalk. It will be hard trying to get to the bus when it pulls up to the curb and there happens to be a mound of snow or ice.

It is important to decide if commuting to the college on a snow day would be a good idea but there is peace of mind offered by the college in the event classes would need to be cancelled due to harsh weather conditions. The college offers an Emergency Alert Service that sends you text messages to your cellphone regarding any emergencies or weather related closures and cancellations.

To sign up for this service, log into your “My SCCC” account and on the main page to the right, click on the box that says “Be Prepared……NY Alert Sign-Up”, enter the needed information and you will be enrolled.

It is also beneficial to watch local news reports such as News 12 Long Island for up the minute weather information regarding news and school closures in the respective county you live in, either Nassau or Suffolk. To see Part 1 of this story, click on this link:

One response

  1. Very informative article Julio. Your writing keeps getting better and better!

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