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Posted at 3:54 PM ET, 12/22/2009

How to weather a storm

By editors

By Michael Hartnett

Having been a police officer for 25 years, I am still amazed at how unprepared people are even when they know severe weather is approaching.

There are just two things to remember: Be prepared and stay off the roads!

Buy bread, milk and toilet paper and whatever other supplies are needed to survive for the next 24 to 48 hours, including some form of entertainment. Bond with your family.

And unless you have a job that is vital to life or need to travel due to extreme emergency, stay off the roads. Let the road crews do their jobs more efficiently. If you absolutely have to travel, prepare accordingly: Make sure your car can handle the weather; have a full tank of gas, blankets, water, kitty litter, a shovel, etc. Clear the entire car of snow and ice, not just the windows.

In bad weather, red lights and stops signs are not optional. I was almost T-boned at an intersection by someone who ran a red light; the driver told me he had to run the light to maintain momentum or he would get stuck. If you can’t drive without disobeying the signals, you have no business being on the road.

On Friday night, my colleagues and I stopped and helped many motorists in the first hours of the storm. Between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m, Rockville Pike, Interstate 270 and many other roads were gridlocked because of inexperienced drivers or cars that weren’t equipped to handle slippery roads. As if that wasn’t enough, most of the motorists I helped were coming from parties and had been drinking. The last motorist I stopped for was a woman passed out behind the wheel in the middle of Rockville Pike.

Even if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, the rules apply to you, too. Stay off the road unless it is an emergency; don’t pass other cars unless you have to, and keep your speed reasonable. Ice does not discriminate.

By editors  | December 22, 2009; 3:54 PM ET
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