Traveling windy mountain roads during the snow and icy weather is quite a bit different than driving on straight roads in the low country.
Making sure you’re prepared and know how to travel in the High Country during adverse weather is the best way to ensure the safety of your vehicle’s passengers.
Kevin Whittington, the N.C. Department of Transportation highway maintenance engineer in Watauga County, advised that drivers should plan their destination and know what route they plan to take starting a journey. He added that drivers should tell someone the route that will be traveled and to allow for extra travel time. Other tips he had for drivers were to give more distance between the vehicle that’s being driven and other cars, clean the vehicle off of snow or ice for the best visbility before starting the drive and to be cautious.
The Blue Ridge Vacations Visitors Guide, based in Blowing Rock, advised that visitors should check the North Carolina Highway Conditions by contacting 1 (877) 368-4968 before traveling to the Western North Carolina High Country.
DOT workers maintain state roadways and typically work to clear primary roads to keep traffic moving through the county the best it can, Whittington said. The Blue Ridge Vacations Visitors Guide explained that secondary roads aren’t scraped or salted until primary roads are finished, which can be later morning or early afternoon. Whittington added that DOT has 15 trucks with plows, two push trucks for unpaved roads and access to 14 rental contractors to help with the weather.
Both Whittington and Blue Ridge Vacations Visitors Guide urged drivers to be cautious of the North facing slopes, as they can be covered with black ice and can be slippery due to the lack of sun.
The two also suggested that drivers winterize their vehicles by investing in adequate tires and potentially chains if needed. The American Automobile Association stated that drivers should make sure that tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread. AAA also urged drivers to not use cruise control when driving on any roads with ice or snow as well as keeping half of a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
“If you get stuck in a traffic jam or in snow, you might need more fuel than you anticipated to get home or to keep warm,” stated the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
When traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, drivers may want to note the mile posts. Blue Ridge Vacations Visitors Guide advises that drivers bring a paper map as cell phone service may be limited. To check for road closures along the Parkway, visit www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/roadclosures.htm.
For those who may find themselves stuck in the snow, AAA advises that drivers stay with their vehicle as it provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate a driver.
“Do not try to walk in a severe storm,” stated AAA. “It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.”
AAA also advised that drivers not over exert themselves when digging out a vehicle, stay warm, conserve fuel and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, ice or mud.
For more winter driving tips, visit www.nhtsa.gov/winter-driving-tips or exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips.