So, a few days earlier, I had gotten the idea to go the Sands Casino, in Bethlehem, PA on Saturday, then pick Julie up at Newark Airport on the way home Saturday night. The Sands is a little less than 2 hours driving in normal traffic, though I have made it in 1.5 hours in the wee hours of the morning.
With the Storm, flights were cancelled and therefore I had nothing to do.
Well, I did have a plan, so I figured, I’d just modify the plan.
As I brush the more than one foot of snow off the car at 9 a.m., I thought about not going, but once the car was clean, how could I not go. In fact, I was more worried about getting back and finding no parking, but turned out not to be a problem.
Having watched the storm prognosis for the last 5 days, I knew exactly what to expect, with the worst conditions being south and east of the City; therefore, I would head north, then west, then southwest and finally west on I-78. Now, the only problem was I knew I-78 to be in the bullseye of the heaviest snow, but I figured if everyone stayed off the road…
I also expected the heaviest snowfall, at the rate of about 2” per hour, to hit during mid-day, so that would just keep things interesting.
There were a few cars about, more than I expected, what with the dire warnings and all. The plan was to go north on the Bronx River Parkway, then west across the Hudson on the Tappan Zee bridge, I-87. Then as the Thruway turns north to Albany, I head South southwest on I-287 for 30 miles to I-78 west to Pennsylvania. The Sands is only 10 miles into Pennsylvania.
As I got on the Bronx River, traffic was running about 40 mph and the road was pretty good condition. I discovered why within minutes as I came up on 2 NYC snow plows that were doing a good job in keeping two lanes clear.
Once they got off, there was more snow on the road, but less snow had fallen. Once on the Thruway, going west, traffic continued at a moderate pace until I got to I-287. Then it got interesting.
Much more snow on the highway, heavier snow falls, though reduced traffic, made the next few hours stressful.
I saw four or five groups of snow plows consisting of 6 to
12 trucks cleaning the three lanes of northbound I-287. What 12 trucks can do at once, that 4 could not do, is something, probably only someone in New Jersey can explain.
Not being able to judge how deep the snow is in the less travelled lanes is one of the most difficult and dangerous aspects of driving in snow. The cause of many off road excursions.
This happens because the tires on one side of the car have increased resistance, thus pulling the car into the deeper snow, slowing, but surely. It must be countered quickly, but delicately. Cars like going the direction they are going. Any big changes will cause upset. In this case, many immediately turn the wheels in the direction where they want to go, let’s say back to the middle of the road.
The problem is, buy turning the wheel, it increases the slip
angle, as the slip angle increase, tires have less traction. So, the two tires that were keeping the car going relatively straight, now have less traction. The car will usually spin off the highway, into the ditch. Sometimes though, it’s worse, in that the car tries to turn, can’t, but as it slows, the tires all of sudden gain traction, but the driver has the car aimed at the center guard rail and within seconds the car does a header into that guard rail. That’s why one sees so many cars, that initially drifted off to the right
shoulder, the driver over corrects, and the car makes a left turn, nose first into the center median.
I-287 was reduced to one useable lane, as the left lane had snow at an unknown depth. Presently, I see a semi-tractor trailer gaining on me and I am happy to have him pass. Now, he will put a lot of snow in the air, my wipers
will ice up more rapidly, but he solves the unknown depth for me.
I follow in in his tracks for about 20 minutes. If he goes in the left lane, I go in the left lane. Trucks are so heavy, they can deal with a lot of snow, as long as they are moving. But I must stay exactly in his tracks. This lasts for about 25 minutes until I peel off to I-78.
There was much less traffic on I-78, thus the snow was deeper. I had to stop twice to knock the ice of the wipers.
As I got deeper into Jersey, virtually every exit was blocked by a truck. I’m glad I did not have to stop.
OK I’ve talked enough.
Let the pictures tell the story. They are in chronological