Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Groundhog's Shadow and Cars in the Ditch

The Groundhog Saw His Shadow.

In Montana, I'm never sure if I should pay attention to whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not! Either way, I know we can expect to have much more than just six weeks left of winter.  I wonder, however, does his shadow predict just how MANY more than six weeks we can expect?

Elk, snow

If you are facing more snow this winter, I hope you won't ever have to use the information I am about to share!

Winter Can Mean Getting Stuck

Has your car ever gotten stuck in a snowdrift? Has it ever slid into a ditch or off a hilly driveway? Would you know how to free your car if it did? I am no expert, but I have had several experiences of being stuck.

My First Experience Driving In Snow - I Slid Off the Road Three Times!
My first experience with driving in snow was in my early twenties, heading to a ski resort in West Virginia with a friend. As we were setting out,  a record-breaking winter storm began.  A trip that should have taken us four hours took eight.  About the third time I slid into the ditch, the guys who had been following us and stopped to help us out twice just waved -  and kept going!  We finally made it, and got up the next day to a world of white - and some good skiing!

snow, road

Studded Tires

The driveway of our current home is long and steep, and can get very icy and tough to navigate in deep snow. Our cars have all-wheel drive and studded snow tires, so usually my family and I can manage it. (Did you know that next to Alaska, Montana allows studded snow tire use longer than any other state? We can put them on October 1, and they don't need to be removed until May 31st!)

A Tow Truck Was Needed

One year, we bought a car in April. It was so late in the year that we didn't bother to put snow tires on it for the rest of that season. Sure enough, the very end of April, we had a snowstorm that dumped 23 inches of wet heavy snow overnight! Taking pity on my kids, I drove them the seven-tenths of a mile to the school bus.  But then, on my return home, as I tried to get back up the driveway I lost traction and slid back. That time, I had to call a tow truck to get the car out of the ditch! 

car, stuck, ditch
April 29, 2009  Montana.

I've Learned a Few Tricks

We have had to help several friends dig their cars out, when they have gotten stuck visiting us. Just a few weeks ago, a neighbor tried to deliver a package of ours that she had received by mistake.  I, of course, was the only one home. The under-belly of her car was packed with snow and her back wheels were deep in the ditch. None of her attempts would budge it.

I walked down to the car with a couple of shovels, a bucket of sand, and towels to see if I could help. 

This is how we finally got her back on the road:

  • We shoveled as much snow from around the tires and under the car as possible.
  • We tucked towels (burlap would work also) underneath the back wheels as well as possible, and arranged them for a source of traction on which to back up.
  • We sprinkled sand around all four wheels (Actually, I don't know if you need to do them all, but for good measure, we sanded all around each tire)
  • We made sure all animals and people (and material possessions) were well clear of all sides of the car, in case it slipped in an unexpected way.  The driver put the car in gear and gently applied the gas, and attempted to steer out of the ditch. The wheels gained some traction, and she was successful back on the driveway!
The tracks from my neighbors's car, after it slid off our driveway and we dug it out. - January 2015
Hopefully, if you are ever stuck, these tips will work for you. Just remember to not ever put yourself in a position of danger, in case the car moves or rolls unexpectedly!

If all else fails, call AAA (if you are a member) or a tow truck!

After an hour or so of digging out a car, you might need something extra-special to warm you up.  It would be nice to return inside to the aroma of Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup, hot and ready to eat! I will publish that recipe tomorrow!

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!


  1. As a long-time New Yorker, I have tons of experience with the slips and slides of snowy winters. The best thing I ever did was buy a 4-wheel drive pickup to replace my sports car. I live on a hill, with a sloping driveway, and half the time I had to leave the sports car parked downtown or at the bottom of the hill -- and trudge home, crying my eyes out.

    1. I am finally getting a chance to look back on comments made to posts from last week. Your driveway sounds similar to mine! I used to park at the bottom when it was bad, but after a bad fall trying to get up the driveway on foot, I usually try to make it up in the car!!

  2. I've taken to carrying kitty litter in my trunk. Great for traction. Or if you happen to see a cat who needs relief . . .

    1. I have kept kitty litter in the trunk instead of bringing it right into the house as well .... but I never thought to offer it to a cat in need!

  3. We both wrote about weather today! Back in 1990 I was at work in Bellevue (about 45 minutes from home), and didn't leave when a snowstorm started. By the time I left the roads were horrible, with abandoned cars everywhere, and very dangerous roads. It ended up taking me six hours to get home. Ever since then I hate driving in the snow, so I avoid it whenever possible!

    1. Seattle seems to pretty much shut down when icy -- so many hills! What an awful experience that must have been! Even though I live in Montana, I had winter driving also - and only drive when I have to!

  4. I don't believe in anything the groundhog determines. We can have winter weather in Montana at any time ... including the fourth of July! And...getting stuck is just a fact of life. Getting yourself "unstuck" is harder on your health than regular shoveling, I think, because one is so unhappy while doing it. Cussing doesn't help either!
    Great pictures, Susan. Were the elk close to your house?

    1. Yes - I have seen snow here every month of the year, I think! The photo of the elk was taken from my house a couple of years ago, but I have seen a number of them a couple of times this year. I think they are out there more often than we realize, because they usually move up above tree line as soon as it gets light!

  5. I'll just stay off the road in conditions like that...saves a lot of misery.

    1. Staying off the winter roads really is the safest practice!

  6. Not a problem we are likely to see. Being bogged in the mud is MUCH more likely.

    1. Actually, I can see how mud could be just as hard to drive in as snow!

  7. I'm still at 23 inches and school not being closed!!! Great tips I could have used you on my old mail route a time or two. Thankfully where we live now it's only snowed once in 4 winters and everything shut down even jobs for 3 adays over 5 inches! What a difference location makes!


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