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Member since: Sat Oct 16, 2004, 10:02 PM
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Driving through this weekend's storm

Okay, so there's a storm coming up the east coast. Some are calling it a nor'easter, but it's not coming from the northeast. Anyway...

I live in northern New England and have dealt with driving in snow my whole life (including some very, very, nasty storms). But for people who encounter it rarely, as might be the case with this upcoming storm, I can offer some advice.

To keep you safe:

1) Don't drive unless you have to. Many people have to, and I recognize that. But if there's any way you can camp out, do so. I won't get into tricks about power outages or stuff. That's a separate issue.

2) If you need to shovel out your car, keep the tailpipe clear. Every year or so we hear a tragic story of someone warming up their car with their kid in it, but not shoveling out the tailpipe, and inevitably someone dies of carbon monoxide poisoning (like the kid from 2 years ago waiting while his dad shoveled out the car).

3) Drive VERY slowly - at least, keep about double the response time (braking distance, etc.) you normally have.

4) Your SUV does not make you invulnerable. The opposite of Johnny Cash's gun song, it won't get you into trouble (that's your problem) but it'll help get you out. I can't tell you how many times I've gone up the highway in a storm and have been passed by SUV's or pickups (SUV's seem to be worse) only to find them two miles up the road off in a snowbank. 4WD doesn't make up for safe driving.

5) Sometimes your danger is more from other cars, even if you're the safest driver around. I won't do any sudden maneuvers (like move into traffic), even if I normally might, because the person coming down the road might slam on the brakes and spin out, causing an accident. If you can't move quickly and safely, there's no reason to suspect the other person could either.

6) Don't underestimate snow drifts. If you drive down the middle of the road and your wheels on one side catch a drift, you can still spin out.

7) Although many cars are front-wheel drive, not all are, and rear-wheel drives are more likely to spin out. Also, particularly in the southern states, there's probably more bald tires than you would find further north; combine that with people having not much experience with driving in snow, and you have a recipe for an accident. Not that everyone has that problem, but you only need one to make your personal life miserable. And it's not you, it's them.

8) Try to brake BEFORE a snowcovered area. Often there's clear roads, and then a little patch of snow, then more clear roads. People tend to brake on the snowpatch, which is actually the worst place to do it. Brake before the snowpatch. Do not have your car do anything tricky (turn, brake, etc.) on the patch if you can do it before. This is also very true of road ends (stop signs or red lights). Often there's snow there and people who wait to brake when they might normally might find themselves sailing past the stop sign into oncoming traffic.

9) Changing lanes can be very dangerous. You can't just swing out to the left (or right) when there's a strip of snow down the middle of the lane (or across all lanes). The speed and/or braking, combined with the lateral movement can easily send you down the snowbank (and if you think being up a snowbank sucks, try being down). In a bad storm, it might easily take me a quarter mile to change lanes safely.

10) That said, hitting a snowbank is usually better than hitting another car. Hopefully all you'll need is a tow out.

11) Keep your car gassed up; not only does this provide coverage if you get stuck, but it also helps protect the tank (reason: an empty tank can form condensation, eventually rusting out the tank. It's not a major problem for the occasional storm, but it's one less thing to have to worry about).

12) Every move, even if you've done it on dry roads a million times before, needs to be done much more slowly and deliberately that you would in dry weather.

If even one of these helps one person, it will have been worth it. Stay safe and warm.

Two injured in Missouri by new large prime number


Unsuspecting tourists found themselves at the receiving end of a large number, when a Mr. and Mrs. Mersenne inadvertently tripped over a previous undiscovered prime number in Missouri.

"We didn't know there was such a thing," Mr. Mersenne claimed. "We knew there were large numbers around, but we never expected to have to deal with one."

The prime in question, basically 2 gazillion digits, was unnoticed until researchers at the University of Missouri uncovered it, barely covered by the dust from the previous prime. As has been reported, there's been no injuries related to the previous prime, but the Missouri state government has applied for Federal Emergency Management assistance in this case, due in part to the magnitude, and the unexpectedness of such a large number in Missouri, a state not normally known for its digital acumen.

The disposition of the number is yet to be decided. Unofficially, the state government is holding out hope for another prime to be discovered. "We don't think we can sustain the tourist attraction", a representative said, but noted that they were hoping to mine additional primes. No word yet as to whether additional primes were in the works, but as he noted, "We wouldn't say no if Kansas could get the next number."
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