November 3, 2010


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Last week’s snowstorm that dumped over six inches of wet, heavy snow across most of McKenzie County and western North Dakota should have been a wake-up call to all of us that winter isn’t all that far away and that we need to take extra precautions when driving.
Most of us that have lived in western North Dakota for years know that when winter comes we have to make some adjustments. We make sure that our vehicles have good tires to get through the snow and the ice. We adjust our travel plans and anticipated driving times because we know that it is going to take longer to reach our destinations when the roads or driving conditions are poor and the winds turn conditions into virtual white-outs. And we ratchet down our driving speeds a few miles per hour and use extra precautions because we know that an ounce of prevention is going to guarantee that we are going to reach our destinations safe and sound.
But even though the weather forecasters had last week’s storm predicted perfectly, there were plenty of people who were caught completely off guard. Call it eternal optimism that fall was never going to leave. Or maybe many of the people who found themselves in the road ditch or involved in accidents had no idea of what to expect when a North Dakota snowstorm settles in.
It was probably a combination of the two. But it is safe to say that with all of the oil activity, there are a lot of new drivers on our roads and many of them have no idea of what lies ahead of them this winter.
So let last week’s storm be a not so gentle reminder that winter is coming to western North Dakota. While no one knows exactly what we can expect this winter, we can be assured that there is going to be plenty of cold temperatures, snow and ice and windy conditions.
And when you couple bad winter driving conditions with the increased traffic that is using our local roads, as well as the poor driving conditions which many of our county and state roadways are in, you have the potential for some very deadly combinations.
We can’t do anything about the weather that we are going to get this winter. And we can’t do anything about the conditions of the roads upon which we have to drive. But we all can do something about the way that we drive this winter.
Before the next snow hits, make a pledge to ensure that your vehicle is ready for winter driving and that you will allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. And when local law enforcement agencies or the National Weather Service issues “no travel” advisories, you need to heed the warnings and stay put.
By just using a little common sense, we can all stay out of the ditches. And more importantly, we may not only be saving our own life, but the lives of others as well.