This week’s column was planned to give a year-end evaluation for candy canes or lumps of coal in holiday stockings, but the weekend’s historic storm changed my approach a little bit.
Although the prospects for a White Christmas are better than in past years, all that white stuff should remind us of some sensible tips to get around without getting hurt.
The first step is getting out of the house, and that first step could be dangerous! Melting snow on your doorstep can freeze quickly and become a treacherous ice path. Wear sturdy boots or shoes, even when stepping out to pick up the newspaper or get the mail. Dress appropriately for outdoor activity. Layering is a good idea, on top and bottom. A hat, mittens or gloves (mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves), and waterproof insulated boots will help keep you warm and provide firmer footing on snow and ice. When you come indoors from shoveling snow or digging out your car, get out of your wet clothes immediately, and warm up with non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages.
When clearing your driveway and sidewalk, try to pile snow out of the roadway, and avoid putting snow in front of, or on top of, storm drains. When the melt comes, the storm drains need to be clear to accept all that water. If you are driving, please clean off all parts of your car first – front, back, and top. When a foot-and-a-half of snow on your car roof shifts as you turn a corner, or when you brake for the person ahead of you, you put everyone, including yourself, at risk. Drive carefully at all times. Black pavement might mean ice. Your normal driving motions are affected drastically by unsure stopping distances and mountains of snow on both sides of the drive aisle(s). Road salts and other chemicals can smear up a windshield very quickly, so be sure to use your windshield washers frequently, and double check the reservoir to be sure it’s full. An occasional damp swipe of your headlights and brake lights will ensure that your vehicle can be seen by other drivers.
Now for those candy canes and lumps of coal:
Candy canes all around for the intrepid snowplow drivers who toiled day and night to open the roads. In Fairfax County (and most other Virginia counties), road maintenance and snowplowing is the responsibility of the Virginia Department of Transportation, a state agency. County Supervisors usually get the complaints, even though most Virginia counties have no authority or responsibility for roads. So candy canes, too, to county staff who fielded all the complaint calls.
A lump of coal to drivers who continue to move about the snow-covered roads as though it was a sunny day in May. Slow down!
Another lump of coal to drivers who hijack the parking space that someone else cleared for their own car.
And, finally, candy canes to everyone with holiday spirit. Regardless of religion, culture, ethnicity, or anything else, “Peace on earth, good will to all” should be replicated to all corners of the earth. Merry Christmas!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org