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How I drove 50 km in yellow warning for heavy snow just to pickup pizza

I decided to slot myself behind a truck as that's generally the safest choice in challenging conditions.

BHPian supermax recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Back in August of 2023, I had my first experience of motorway driving during an active yellow warning (due to extremely heavy rain) , and yesterday, I got my second experience, this time, driving under extremely heavy snowfall!

When I called my wife during the day and asked what she'd planned for dinner, she mentioned pizza, and my interest was piqued. Both my wife and I love pizza from Pizza Hut, but ever since they shut down their only outlet in Linköping where we live, we make the trip to the neighboring city of Nörrköping, whenever we feel like some Pizza Hut pizza. She wasn't really insistent, but I felt that a pizza would be rather nice, and told her to order online mentioning a later time of pickup, so I could finish up my work and do the 50 km drive to Pizza Hut. It's barely a 30 minute drive, and with the seat-warmer on full blast, the pizzas stay perfectly warm, we've done this in the past, so I didn't give it the slightest second thought; I should have!

As I finished up and was preparing to leave, my wife called me to say that it'd started snowing. Again, I didn't think much of it, as snow is hardly news. What I didn't know though, was that there was a yellow warning for extremely heavy that had been put out by the national weather provider.

The hours? Between 1700 hrs in the evening to 1000 hrs the next morning. What was expected? The unloading of around 10 centimeters of snow, 15-20 centimeters in many places. Where? Linköping (my city), Nörrköping (where I wanted to drive to!), and many surrounding areas!

They'd even put out a map showing the affected regions, something that would have convinced me to stay home, if only I'd seen the report!!

When I reached my car in the parking lot, fifteen past five, it was already quite dark, and the car was already covered under a thick mantle of snow. Reaching for the snow-brush, I brushed away the snow even as more kept descending. I hoped this was a heavy but brief spell, as I hopped in and turned on the heater and defogger full blast to clear up the windows. The drive through town was uneventful, but even as I hit the on-ramp for the motorway, it was clear that this was not just any ordinary burst of snow. The on-ramp was completely snow covered, and it not even possible to make out where the road ended and the shoulder began. And the snow was now chucking down, hard. The motorway is a 110 km/h road, and in normal conditions, there's simply no way I'm joining it at anything less than the full 110 km/h, but there was no way I was going to push the pedal to the metal in these conditions. I joined the motorway at around 70 km/h and found others doing the same or driving even slower.

I decided to slot myself behind a truck as that's generally the safest choice in challenging conditions, but within a few moments, he started to drop his speed. From 70, to 60, and then to 55. At 55, I started worrying that even cars doing 80 would be quite a bit faster and might not expect me to be trundling so slowly. Even as I was starting to consider passing him, he turned on his warning blinkers, got to the shoulder and stopped!

I was not very far behind him and didn't decide soon enough, so I too ended up turning on my warning blinkers and stopping a bit behind the truck. Having done so, I now regretted the decision already, as I now had to pass this truck, starting from standstill, and it would not even be safe to simply floor it, given the conditions. I dismissed mental images of a much faster vehicle plowing into me, checked my rearview for a traffic-free patch, checked the blind spot, indicated and made my pass. Having passed the now stopped truck (which I suspect stopped because he didn't have proper winter tires that were needed for the prevailing conditions), I picked off a few more slow moving cars before finding a gap that was large enough for me to safely get back to the right lane, without being either too close to the vehicle(s) ahead or behind me, and vacated the passing lane.

Unlike rainwater which helps the wiper blades to move smoothly, snow or a combination of snow and slush ice is harder to handle. If you leave the wipers on full blast, they start squeaking and possibly overheating over the clear glass, or making screeching noises as ice chunks get dragged across the windscreen, but if the wipers are turned off even for a bit, the visibility worsens quite a bit. Turning on the heat full blast helped a bit as it kept the glass free of condensation buildup at least, and helped melt down some of the ice too. I'd now slotted myself behind another truck, which meant I didn't have to play the guessing game about where the road ended or lanes were separated, and all seemed well, till disaster struck. A big chunk of dirt and snow loosened from the truck ahead and landed on my windscreen and the wipers simply couldn't clear it. I was afraid that the sand/gravel mixed with the snow could scratch up the glass, so had to turn off the wipers, blast away with the wiper fluid and just perform one or two tentative wiper strokes to ensure that the windscreen still offered me a view of what lay ahead. I saw that there was a fuel station some two kilometers away, and made up my mind to stop there to clean up my windscreen properly before proceeding.

Even as I gingerly got off the motorway and proceeded to park the car, the incoming snow had already managed to clear up a lot of the grime, and a new blast of wiper-fluid managed to get the remaining grime off the screen. The pizzeria was still a good 20 minutes away, but the snow had started to recede just a bit, just enough to allow me to drive without being seriously worried.

When I pulled into the parking lot Pizza Hut and walked up to the reception, I was nearly a full hour late. I explained my predicament to the staff who kindly offered to fix me up with fresh pizzas instead of the soggy and cold pizzas in the boxes that had been waiting for me. After a short wait, I picked up the now steaming hot pizzas, thanked the staff, who wished me a safe journey back home, and got back to the car. The return journey was far less scary as the snow had let off just a bit, and my eyes were already adjusted for the conditions. I realized that I just needed to drive alertly, and ensure that I didn't end up being part of the statistics that are shared after a weather episode like this. I did however see plenty of vehicles with their hazard lights, some pulled over as they were too rattled to continue, and some which had actually driven off the road, having been unable to fathom where the road ended. Nothing really scary though.

I did most of the return trip at a steady 80 km/h and when I exited the motorway, realized that for the first time in a while, I was actually above the posted speed limit! I quickly dropped the speed some more and downshifted too. This was the first time since my drive in torrential rain in August that I'd spent a large part of time in gears below 6th, while on the motorway! Entering the city, I found that the inner streets had received far more snow since I'd last seen them, and I even came across a multi-car incident at a roundabout, which told me to keep my guard up even though I'd made it back to town. It was only after entering my parking garage that I allowed myself to fully relax.

I'd been out in some really bad weather, and had come back unscathed. Would I have made the trip had I checked the weather beforehand? Definitely not; having made the trip however, I was happy that I'd acquitted myself well, driving sensibly and carefully in those challenging conditions. I'll certainly be less nervous in a pinch, should such a situation arise again. The pizzas were still hot, as I'd not forgotten to turn on the seat-warmer all the way Time to enjoy the fruits of the hard labor, I thought, as I made my way to my apartment, leaving behind a trail of fragrant pizza aroma in my wake.

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