Tonight: All The Slippery Is In The First Quarter Inch


There’s a line I’ve been saying on TV for a generation. When it comes to snow, “All the slippery is in the first quarter inch.” Was that ever true tonight!

Our connecting flight from Baltimore got to Bradley a few minutes before midnight. We were 58 minutes late!

The pilot mentioned the Windsor Locks METAR as we taxied toward takeoff: one mile visibility, light snow. By the time we landed the visibility had dropped to a half mile and the precipitation intensified to moderate snow.

Bumpy descent? A little.

For the last fifteen minutes we flew through snow. It was horizontal snow. I assume all that snow hitting the windshield meant the pilots were solely depending on instruments until we were nearly on-the-ground.

This is the kind of things 737’s do–especially when 9,500 feet of runway is available. It still makes me nervous, especially when braking isn’t optimum.

As we broke free of the clouds, just before landing, the snow’s impact was obvious. Every road we flew over or near was white, as was the runway we landed on.

The drive home was slow.

The roads remained covered as we drove away. The snow wasn’t deep. The stripes marking the lanes were still dimly visible through the accumulation.

It didn’t make any difference. Traction was in short supply. We saw a few cars off the road or on the shoulder after an accident.

I did 40-45 mph most of the way in Helaine’s 4WD SUV. I drove gingerly. That’s the secret to snow. Make no fast moves!

Road crews were out, but there was little they could do. It was falling too fast for plowing to make a difference.

We followed a shoulder-to-shoulder convoy of plows and spreaders who blocked all passing attempts from Middletown to Hamden! Other than their blinding strobes and our significantly reduced speed their labor had no impact I could see.

Roads in Hamden seemed pure and virginal. The snow was untouched.

I climbed the little hill to our neighborhood in 4WD Low. If you have a 4WD vehicle and have never used a low gear, you’re missing an incredible safety feature. We took the hill as if we were wearing spikes.

We’re home now. Enough traveling.

8 thoughts on “Tonight: All The Slippery Is In The First Quarter Inch”

  1. “4-low” does not create more traction – it creates more torque and that can be detrimental when traction is marginal. Slipping tires are more likely in “4 low” than in “4 high”! For that reason 4 low is not a good choice for snow or ice – and not a good choice for mud either!

    So what safety feature am I missing while using 4 low in the snow?

    1. I’m not a mechanical expert but I can say that I get better traction and mobility in snow and other slippery conditions when I use low gear than when I use ‘drive’.

    2. Melissa – 4WD low is absolutely indicated for snowy uphill (or downhill) climbs. From

      Low-Range 4WD
      4-Low alters the gearing in your vehicle. It is designed so you can creep along at slow speeds (which also reduces the potential for damage to your vehicle). Most manufacturers recommend you do not exceed 45 mph in 4-Low. Keep in mind that 4-Low does not provide more traction. Instead, it provides considerably more torque (often 2-3 times that of 4-High at very low speeds).

      When to use 4-Low: On wet, slippery surfaces; in heavy, wet snow; climbing or descending steep hills; on very rough terrain (trails, off road); powering through mud; climbing rocks; driving through deep sand; fording water.

  2. Great picture. I, too, am glad that you are both home safe. We had about 5″ here in Ridgefield, with a coating of ice on top.

  3. 4 low in the snow is the way to go. It’s much less about torque than it is the rate at which the tire spins in drive/high. Yes, low has more torque but it also provides you with a slow steady pace to move all that weight where the alternative leaves you with spinning tires from the lack of low. Try it sometime, you might be surprised with how safe and efficient Low is in the snow.

  4. Glad you’re home safe but I suspect that living in NE for as long as you have driving in snow isn’t that much of a challenge.
    On the other hand, looking at how many idiots end up in ditches, trees and medians, it apparently still IS a challenge for some folks.

  5. In my opinion, 4WD or AWD is a must in New England. Even better is to have the correct tires. Nokian makes an all-weather tire called the WR G2 that can be left on all year. The combination of my Subaru’s AWD and Nokians give great confidence in dry, rain and snow. The only downside mentioned is they wear quickly, however, I have over 40K miles on mine. Look them up the next time you need tires.

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