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Why AAA says 'expect the unexpected' during winter storm

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Posted at 5:46 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 17:46:24-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning drivers to “expect the unexpected” as Central Virginia braces for another round of winter weather.

Winter weather advisories are in effect for the entire area tonight into midday Friday. Overnight lows will be in the upper 20s and lower 30s.

Some snow accumulation will occur, especially north of I-64. Many areas across central VA will see 1-3", with some pockets of 4" possible. As warmer air moves in higher up in the atmosphere, we will see the snow change to some sleet and freezing rain overnight into Friday morning. Light ice accumulation will be possible.

Sleet began to mix with rain near Bryan Park in Richmond just as drivers began their evening commute on Thursday.

Morgan Dean, a senior specialist with AAA Mid-Atlantic, urged drivers to take extra caution if it is necessary to get out on the roads.

“It could be rain it could be freezing rain it could be some sleet or could be some snow. It could be all mixed together.
For drivers you really need to be concerned because as you drive from one point to another you really could encounter a whole bunch of situations,” Dean explained.

A VDOT spokesperson said the state agency pre-treated roads in the northern part of the region but hasn't been able to get to all the roads due to rain.

“Give yourself extra time because you’re probably going to be going slower. We want you to go slower. The slower you go in a situation where it’s frozen precipitation coming down and perhaps changing to something else and a lot of different conditions,” Dean stated. “Slowing down gives you time to anticipate and see things in front of you to be able to stop in time and not encounter other problems out there.”

AAA provides the following safe driving tips for drivers:

  • Watch for black ice. Although it is mostly invisible, pavement with black ice will be a little darker and duller than the rest of the road surface.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses. Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last. Therefore, use extra caution as the roadway leading up to the bridge may appear fine but the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
  • Travel gently. Drive, turn, and brake slowly. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Be extra aware of the traffic ahead. If you see brake lights, fish tailing cars, sideways cars or emergency flashers, slow down even more.
  • Control the skid. If you are approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Applying pressure to your brakes while on ice will only throw you into a skid. In the event you find your car is skidding, ease off of the accelerator or brake, and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
  • If your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, you need to use the following threshold braking technique: Squeeze the brake pedal with your toes, and, when you feel the wheels begin to lock, ease off the pressure slightly and hold it there.
  • Guard against SUV overconfidence. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are great for initial traction and avoiding getting stuck, but once they are moving, they have the same difficulty keeping control and stopping as other vehicles.
  • Never use cruise control. Cruise control is not recommended when ice is on the road as the driver should be in full control of the vehicle at every second.
  • Drive in cleared lanes. Changing lanes unnecessarily puts you at greater risk of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that may cause you to lose control of the vehicle.