SUVs Tumbling Out of the Skies Makes National News

We cover a lot with today’s comments…but first…

Imagine driving along the scenic stretch of Hwy 321 that enters Blowing Rock. You’re admiring the panoramic views that surround you. You’re taking in the gorgeous snow alongside the roadways from last week’s foot or so of snow. You’re enjoying the fact that it is snowing rather moderately. You’re really getting into the Holiday spirit. After all – you’re in a Winter Wonderland. Imagine – all that and just as you’re engulfed in the spirit of the moment an SUV comes falling OUT OF THE SKY and plunks right down in front of your path – or worse yet ON TOP OF YOUR CAR!!!

That nearly happened Sunday morning just south of Blowing Rock. The photo shown is compliments of the Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue Department. They pulled off a dramatic rescue of a guy who was stranded in his SUV as it hung nearly upside down in the trees. Those trees were just inches from a 70 foot drop off of a rock cliff – just ABOVE highway 321!

The driver of the SUV had been driving down a snow covered secondary road that runs along and above the highway when he lost control and the vehicle went down the embankment and through the woods. It rolled to it’s side and came to a rest on two small trees that, fortunately for the driver, kept him from going over the rock cliff and falling straight off the 70 foot drop!

According to the Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue Department it took them about an hour to stabilize the SUV so the man could get out safely. The driver was not injured but was transported to Watauga Medical Center for a "once over".

Update: The image above AND the story appeared on Fox News this morning and evidently a nine year old boy spotted the overturned vehicle and called 911. The family was on their way to get a Christmas tree and say they’ll never forget this trip!

…and that takes me to today initial rant and then I get to rave a little…

If you don’t know how to drive in snowy weather – don’t do it. The guy or gal above may be a veteran at snow-covered, mountain driving so this isn’t about them. It IS however about the numerous vehicles and drivers who were all over (and off) the roadways around here last weekend, week and then again this weekend.

In the control of an experienced driver, you could take a low profile, Ford Mustang with no front or 4WD and take it just about anywhere in the mountains during MOST snowfalls. Obviously if the snow is deeper than your axles all bets are off but my point is driving is easy in the snow if you know what you’re doing and use a little common sense.

If you’re living in the mountains, then you don’t have any excuse. Put on your big girl or big boy underwear and get out and drive in the stuff and you’ll get good at it. My 16 year old daughter is now an old pro at driving in this stuff and she’s only been driving a year. I had her up at the Lowes Food parking lot last weekend PURPOSELY gunning the gas and PURPOSELY doing doughnuts to teach her how to gain control of her vehicle. It really isn’t all that hard. If you live, work or go to school in the mountain communities of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic then you should know how to get around in it. If you’re going to miss school or work everytime there’s 2-4" of snow on the roads then you’re probably going to grade out poorly with all the missed assignments – or you’re probably not going to keep your job.

I hear people making the excuse of the kind of vehicle their driving, saying things like, "My car won’t handle the snow…" If you live in the mountains you should choose your vehicles better.

For those of you who don’t know better and are heading to the mountains for a ski getaway – you’re excused just a bit. However you should know that THE REASON you’re heading to the mountains in the winter is to see some snow and it doesn’t JUST snow on the ski slopes. Some of it USUALLY ends up on the roads.

Our Department of Transportation crews are as talented and equipped as the snowmaking crews of our region and they do a fabulous job of keeping the main roadways and highways pretty clear. However, at the height of big storms you WILL be faced with having to make a choice of sitting in your hotel room or vacation lodging – or driving in the stuff to get to the slopes (or shopping, dining, etc.)

These little tips MAY come in handy.

1. If you CAN, drive a 4WD or at least front wheel drive vehicle. 4WD will blow a front wheel drive vehicle away every time.

2. When you are pulling away from a stop – feather the gas. I can’t tell you how many people I witnessed last week bombing the gas and wondering why they weren’t getting anywhere. Just give your vehicle enough gas to JUST GET THE WHEELS GOING. If your tires begin to spin, let off the gas and apply again – this time with less pedal. Feathering the gas will allow you to gain momentum enough to get up most any hill.

3. When going DOWNHILL slow the heck down to a crawl, especially when you’re approaching a curve. 4WD does almost no good whatsoever going downhill unless you get out of control and hit the gas.

4. When you lose control, try applying GAS instead of BRAKE to gain control of your vehicle. Getting some DRIVE in your wheels is usually more beneficial than hitting the brakes.

Of course none of these tips mean a thing if you’re driving mostly on ice, very wet snow or with tires that should be on a NASCAR vehicle (no tread).

FOR SOME OF YOU…STAY OFF THE ROADS…

FOR THOSE THAT WANT TO GET BETTER…try these additional tips.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared and that you know how to handle road conditions. It’s helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you’re familiar with how your car handles. (See my daughter/father comment above.)

1. Decrease your speed 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.

2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake. SLAMMING ON THE BRAKES WILL DO NO GOOD.

3. Keep your lights and windshield clean.

4.Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

5. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

6. Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

7. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

8. If your rear wheels skid…Take your foot off the accelerator. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.

Contrary to what your brain tells you …

If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.  If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

9. If your front wheels skid…Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

THE MAIN THING IS GO SLOWER THAN YOU THINK YOU SHOULD BE GOING. If you’re driving slow enough, then you probably won’t drive off a cliff.

Another thing that my family does is make sure that you carry a shovel (preferrable a snow shovel) with you when you have to be driving in heavy snow. Also take extra coats, blankets and a snack bar or water bottle or two with you when you travel. You NEVER KNOW when something crazy might happen like an SUV falling from the sky or a deer pop out in front of you and you’re stuck in a snow drift. BE PREPARED.

ONE MORE RANT —

(Before I share this rant – if you’re simply a fan of this website AND NOT a ski area marketing person or ski resort owner, manager, etc – LEAVE THE ROOM. CLICK AWAY FROM THE REST OF THIS POST.)

I’m sure some non, ski area peeps are still reading, but if you ARE and you become confused…you were warned.

This past weekend, my email address INBOX and our Office Voice Mail had messages in it about the fact that a few ski resort management peeps were not being able to LOG IN and UPDATE THEIR SNOW REPORTS via the Southeast Ski Area Association website.

Ummm…you’re complaining to the wrong person/company. The Southeast Ski Areas Association website (which is NOT www.SkiSoutheast.com) was down all weekend because apparently someone forgot to pay their bill as the domain name was expired. Apparently that’s what you guys get when you pay $35,000 a year for a website that received 1250 +/- unique visitors ALL LAST SEASON!  Okay I know that was a little harsh but you should see my emails.

Apparently the only people logging onto that website are the ski areas posting their snow reports for the day. Let’s see – 17 ski areas times 150 days – that’s 2550 potential visits. That’s about right when you consider that several ski areas don’t update via that site but about every few days, weeks or longer (I’m not exaggerating.)

A-N-Y-W-A-Y, evidently even the website managers who are being paid the big bucks didn’t notice the site was down of if they did they didn’t think it was worthy enough to call the domain registrar and give them a credit card to get the site LIVE.

I know I’m trash talking but you guys should have heard my voice mails or read the emails. For the record, SkiSoutheast.com is not the official website of any organization, ski area association, etc, etc. We’re just "little old us" which receives millions of visitors per season.

Too much said – I’m sure I’ve ticked off one or two people. I’m also certain that a few of our resort managers out there are smiling from ear to ear and loving me right now. You know who you are and YOU are appreciated.

A RAVE OR TWO…

I’ve been sharing visitor numbers occasionally this early in the season because we’re not only proud of the numbers, but we’re setting records for this early in December. This time I HAVE to admit, I’m rubbing it in a little…

One of our team called the office this morning to inform me that "we’ve been all over the news this weekend" and by "we" I mean SkiSoutheast.com, HighCountryWebCams.com and HighCountryWeather.com. Thanks to multiple television stations for plugging us this weekend. I saw the sites plastered on two stations this weekend and evidently we were talked about on more than a couple of others as our numbers were pretty impressive JUST FOR THE WEEKEND.

Our Friday through Sunday numbers were as follows:

87,707 Unique visitors
1,413,987 pages viewed

Is that crazy or what!?! 

ONE MORE RAVE…

The servers handled all the page traffic with flying colors! A few weeks back we had an "attack" during one of the snows where 3200 connections per minute were trying to view the weather, cams and resort pages and we had a REAL slow down in content delivery. Hats off to our provider, SoftLayer and our admin guys for not only adding some additional horsepower to the servers, but getting the techie stuff all worked out to handle the added load because of all of our traffic.

We’ve had a wealth of emails from first-timers this weekend chatting up the webcams and of course all the snow. SNOW IS OUR FRIEND! We LOVE first time visitors and we like you guys coming back again and again even more so!

Thanks for checking us out and allowing me to babble on.

Check back for more rants, raves and commentaries. Email me YOUR comments, questions, photos or videos to [email protected]  and I’ll post you up!

Remember to watch the LIVE CAMS at www.HighCountryWebCams.com ; check out the weather and forecast for all 17 ski areas and more at www.HighCountryWeather.com  and visit the messageboard, join up and join in the fun communications.

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of SkiSoutheast.com, SkiNC.com and ResortCams.com. Since September 1996 he has posted more than 13,000 posts, articles, photos and videos promoting all of the ski areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.Mike is the father of four daughters, is an avid skier and enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Winter snowsports and Summer boating on Watauga Lake are among his favorite pastimes.