The Water Cooler – Driving in Bad Weather

January 21, 2013 12:00 pm · 20 comments

The “Water Cooler” is a feature on where we ask you a question or provide a topic, and you talk about it!

The “Water Cooler” will be up Monday-Friday in the noon hour.

Earlier today, we reported on a crash that was caused by black ice on Treat Boulevard in Walnut Creek.

Tell us about the worst weather related driving experience you’ve ever had. Have you driven in a hurricane, tornado, very heavy rain (where you can’t see the road), snow storm, thick fog, etc.

Talk about it….


1 Parsnip January 21, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Las Vegas: Sand storms. The roads are totally covered. You don’t know where the asphalt ends and the desert begins.

Contra Costa: Heavy, heavy fog or very heavy rain. I love the stuff so long as I’m inside and power is available.

Europe/Back East: The snow (but I didn’t drive — my father did).

2 Pied January 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM

After I completed my military training in VA I had to fly to Germany for my first assignment. I arrived at the wrong airport in D.C. and took a shuttle so I could catch my flight. It was the first snow, and all exaggeration aside I witnessed *at least* 50 cars get damaged during my short trip. It was surreal watching cars lose traction and slowly, gracefully, glide into other cars – setting off a chain reaction. Cars would slide off the freeway into trees, and come spinning back into traffic. Somehow we avoided getting hit but I have never seen anything on that scale ever since.

3 Cowellian January 21, 2013 at 12:28 PM

My Grandmother died in 1994, so I flew back to Nashville for her funeral service. Since she was going to be buried near St. Louis the next day, we had to leave right after the service.

Unfortunately, that was the weekend they closed Kentucky. No foolin’, they shut down the entire state due to snow and ice. We had to drive south, almost to Memphis, and then cut over to I-55 in Arkansas (and for the record, Arkansas does a terrible job of taking care of their roads).

The entire time we were in Arkansas, I was in a semi-controlled skid. There were jackknifed trucks all over the place. Cars were in the ditch or stacked up on the road, and I was just slip-sliding around them. I felt like I was in some kind of video game. It was quite late by the time we got to the motel, and my nerves were absolutely shot.

4 Screwy Louie January 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM

S.B. 101 through Santa Maria at night. Hit the thickest fog I’ve ever seen.
I had Cowellian nerves looking straight down, straddling the fog line At 10mph, waiting for it to clear.

5 Jeff January 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM

I-70 in colorado coming down from evergreen.

The road basically runs straight downhill. When it is black ice there are frequently 100+ car pileups.

When you hit your brakes and nothing happens, and you realize this is just the top of the mountain and you have that much more to go – pretty scary.

The other is a pass called red cone. Trust me – dont drive it.

6 Dorothy January 21, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Snow & sleet on I-5 coming down the mountain. I stayed close to a big truck so I could be in its wheel tracks where he had broken the snow.

Ex decided to drive back to Calif from MO with a tornado warning on. Rain so heavy you couldn’t see out the windshield. He drove with his door cracked open to see the road, his friend who helped drive did the same so we would not go off the road.

Fog over the pass going to Vagus. Closed in fast and I stayed closer than I should behind another big truck so I could see his tail lights. We pulled into a small town and stayed put for a while.

Kansas rainstrom, not as bad as the first one but coming down hard and actually raining small frogs and tadpoles! Yuck.

7 Anon January 21, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Highway 4, girlfriends car, bald tires, raining so hard couldnt even see the road. I know… Stupid to drive with bald tires, remember not my car. Rear end slid out did a few 360’s in traffic (2pm), and perfectly navigated it while spinning to the side of the freeway. Luckily for her and the passenger in the back seat I have experience as a stunt driver. Its a funny story we still tell today. She’s freaking out, the guy in the back is white as a ghost meanwhile mid spin im telling them to relax I got it. Turn into the spin people and not all the way use your best judgement and dont panic :)

8 Shasta Daisy January 21, 2013 at 1:31 PM

White out conditions in Boston.

9 Howard K. Mullins III January 21, 2013 at 1:41 PM

I have driven in a lot of crummy weather. I think my toughest drive was across I 80 from Cheyenne to to Lincoln one December. Its usually a 5 to six hour trip, that day it took 18 hours.

The snow and freezing drizzle slowed all the traffic to a crawl. I had to stop numerous times to scrape the ice off the windows, the car heater could not keep up with the wind and snow.

At one point I stopped for gas and could not get out of the car, the door was frozen shut.

Traffic was bumper to bumper and many accidents. That was a very long day.

A few days later I drove back in 5 hours.

The other memorable drive was down the West Slope of the Rockies in Colorado. I drove through a blizzard in Colorado and then on south into New Mexico I drove through a sand storm. All in one day of driving.

10 ConcordMike January 21, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Sandstorm in the Palm Desert outside Palm Springs. You see it blowing across the desert and then all of a sudden, you can’t see the hood of your car. One definitely has to pull to the side of the road.

11 Flash flood in the desert on a bright, sunny day January 21, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Completely unexpected, no clouds in the sky, bright sunny day, driving across the desert, a river of muddy water higher than the hood of my pickup came barreling across the road. With a truck in front of me, and a couple more behind me, I couldn’t put on the brakes, because they wouldn’t have been able to see me slow down…just had to steer straight and take my foot off the gas. Water came up through the stick shift boot, mud covered the windows and windshield so that even when I came out on the other side, I couldn’t see to tell if the car in front of me had stopped. We all managed to stop without running into each other, on the side of the road, without getting stuck in the sand. Very scary.

12 led January 21, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Tule fog on the 99 between Bakersfield and the Grapevine. I’ve never been more scared on the freeway. I just tucked in behind a semi, drove at less than 20mph, and hoped that we didn’t run into a massive pile-up of cars. You seriously could not see anything past about 15 yards maximum.

Also, an ice storm while driving in Northern Indiana. I could see and feel the ice accumulating on every inch of roadway (and everything else). Terrifying. We stopped at a friend’s house to get off the road. In the morning every single tree branch on every tree was encased in ice. A big branch came down onto the house in the middle of the night because it was so weighed down with the ice. Unbelievable.

13 Mountain Driver January 21, 2013 at 2:36 PM

On Hwy 50 just after sundown leaving a ski resort and heading back to our place in the mountains. Part way home, the fog became literally so thick that I couldn’t see past the hood of my truck. I had my brother open the passenger door and spot the white stripe on the right side of the road. We drove about 2MPH for about 20 minutes with the hazard lights flashing until we got out of the dangerous fog. It was too dangerous to stop or find a good spot to pull over. I mostly concentrated on not hitting anything or getting hit by someone else. We were just kids and this driving story has stuck with me for many years.

14 anonmtz January 21, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Another Hwy 4 story….not as bad as some others here……St. Patrick’s Day, 2011 headed west from Mtz the light drizzle turned into fire hose force….blinding enough that I was hard pressed to find an exit to get off the road…..scary for about 20 seconds….decided Berkeley could wait.

15 Son of Concord January 21, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Eastbound Interstate 40 in New Mexico, as I came out of the mountains into Albuquerque, I saw what looked like a ball cut in half covering a quarter of the city. It was a thunderstorm, the kind we definitely don’t get in the bay area. Of course the freeway drove right into the middle of this thing. I was driving a Mustang with a sunroof. Around here, after a few days of heavy (by our standards) rain, the sunroof would develop a drip, like one drop every minute. Immediately after entering the storm, the sunroof had a steady stream of water pouring in. All around the outside of the storm was sunny day, and the combination of rain, combined with glare off the raindrops, made it impossible to see. I slowed down to where I felt comfortable, which was 25 mph. Right at this time, I hear semi-truck horn blaring, and see a big truck bearing down on me at 60 mph. I had no choice but to punch it and cross my fingers. I couldn’t even see the side of the road, so no way to pull over. Then, just as fast as I had entered the storm, I popped out the other side, back to sunny skies. Just another reason why we pay the big bucks to live in the bay area!

16 Triple Canopy January 21, 2013 at 3:39 PM

Was driving through Oklahoma City on an elevated freeway in the middle lane and it was raining cats and dogs… wipers are set on high and was already driving slow…… two cars ahead of me, one on the left and one on the right, hit a long path of water sheeting across the road and splashed water up and on my windshield…. I could not see for a few seconds and hoped that vehicles were not stopped in front of me. Whew.

17 Atticus Thraxx January 21, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Got you all beat. Pike’s Peak, upside down and backwards at night in the rain, no seatbelts and I had just gotten my eye’s dilated for an eye exam. And I was drunk. And my socks didn’t match.

18 Paul (formerly) in South Concord January 21, 2013 at 5:18 PM

As a passenger… Roughly 1986. A small group of us were on our way home from some church youth thing. The only road was a narrow state highway, that would through the Cascade Mountains. The roads were plowed, sanded and mostly clear. This was in January, so there was a TON of snow, everywhere. Our driver was a young adult and quite a responsible fellow. Drove carefully, made us all wear our seatbelts, etc. We hit a spot of black ice, the car spun around twice, hit the snow berm on the other side of the road, flipped over the berm and rolled ~ 50ft down a hill, coming to a rest in it’s side. In the first few seconds after the car stopped moving, the windows on the side pressed against the snow, exploded. We were all shaken, but uninjured. We were able to extricate ourselves, out the (skyward facing) passenger side windows. Myself and one other fellow, were able to climb up the hill and flag down a passing car. They took us into town, and we found a state trooper, tow trick, etc. They both went to the site (not visible from the roadway) and I pointed out the rest of the group, to the trooper. Only time I’ve ever ridden in a cop car! He ran us all back to town, the tow truck winched the car back up to the road and our driver DROVE the car to where we were gathered. We got picked up and he drove the car, with the broken windows, all the way home, in 15 degree (F) weather.

19 Elwood January 21, 2013 at 5:42 PM

December in Washington state.

Fog so thick you can’t see the front of your hood.

Freezing into black ice under your wheels.

Driving by wrecks with bodies under yellow tarps.

20 Lorelei January 21, 2013 at 9:47 PM

December 13, 1995, coming home from work at dawn from San Francisco to Clayton….POURING rain and HOWLING wind, pickup truck hanging off the upper deck of the Bay Bridge, trees all over Hwy. 24, trees blocking Ygnacio Valley Road, trees blocking the WB lanes of Treat Blvd….all traffic going both ways on EB side, downed tree right across my carport….inside the front door, fell against it and burst into tears!

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