How to Drive in Bad Weather Like a Mainer

WGME Portland’s chief meteorologist Charlie Lopresti shares his tried-and-true tips for operating your vehicle in the throes of winter.

The criterion for a snow day is, first and foremost, the inability of school buses to operate safely on their routes to school. Here in Maine, the third coldest and second snowiest state in the U.S. according to the World Population Review, where we receive an average of 77.28 inches of snowfall per year, the potential for impromptu neighborhood snowball fights is high. But if we’re seeing fewer of these nostalgic-laden days off, it’s not, according to Charlie Lopresti, chief meteorologist at WGME Portland, because there’s less snow than there used to be. (Though remote learning could certainly be to blame.) “The road crews in Maine are amazing,” says Lopresti. “You always hear from old-timers who say, ‘When I was a kid, the snowbanks were so much higher!’” In reality, Lopresti says, that’s not the case. “Two things are happening there,” he says. “First, you’re a kid; you’re small, right? So the banks look higher.” But what’s really happening, he explains, is the advancements in technology. “The hydraulics on these big plows, they’re blowing snow, sending it deep into the woods. They’re not making those big snowbanks that you once saw when you were little.” These days, Mainers are remarkably comfortable driving in snow. “If there’s two inches of snow on the ground in southeastern Massachusetts, people are gonna stay off the roads,” says Lopresti. “In Maine, we just call that Tuesday.” He says that in his 20-year career there’s only been half a dozen times when he’s told people to stay home, such as the blizzard of 2013 (“my favorite blizzard”) where Portland got 15 inches of snow in just six hours. So, for people who pride themselves on staying on the road, how is it done? Does moving to Maine mean you have to purchase, say, an SUV? “Obviously something that sits higher is going to do better in deeper snow,” says Lopresti, who recommends not trying to blow through the snowplow-made berm at the end of your driveway in anything other than a truck. “Yeah, I got stuck on the top of one of those in a Subaru Forester,” he explains. But other than that, all one really needs is front-wheel drive, less than six inches of snow on the ground, and some snow tires. “I’m not an expert on tires, but you don’t want a regular old tire you bought in Florida,” he says. Feel yourself starting to skid? “The recommendation is, once you start skidding, you turn into the skid,” says Lopresti. “You can recover that pretty easily in snow,” he continues. On ice? “Um, you might just keep turning, and before you know it, you’re doing a 360.” When it comes to ice accumulating on the windshield and blocking visibility, though, Lopresti has a tried-and-true trick: crank the defrost on high and, in order to keep from sweating yourself out, crack the windows a little—the operative word being “little.” Finally, drive slowly. “The faster you drive, the faster and the farther you’ll probably go into the woods.”

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