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mike Meehan

Tales of the Snow

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No doubt many of you have experiences of incidents in the snow, so I invite you to share them with the rest of us.

I'll start with an incident which occurred circa '88 at St Albans.

I was on night duty and we had had a fall of snow in the region of 10 cms - this was the type of snow easily compacted on the roads and by then the temperature was below freezing.

We received a call from a member of the public reporting that his mate was stranded in his car and was making contact via a CB radio with a diminishing signal, so we started to make a search of the area where we thought he was. The member of the public was a passenger in my car.

During the course of this it was necessary to try and get up a hill which was to our right on the Sandridge side of St Albans. The road had a layer of compacted snow on the surface but I thought that if I could get up sufficient speed I should be able to make it to the top.

I nearly did but some 30 metres from the brow of the hill I lost traction - not only did I lose traction but the car started to slide back down the hill.

I looked behind to see what car I was likely to collide with and in the course of this nudged the steering wheel a little bit right hand down - it occurred to me I was turning, then hang on a sec, I can make this into a three point turn, which I did and was able to drive down the hill in a normal manner.

My passenger remarked, 'Bloody 'ell, they don't half teach you blokes to drive well!'

Phew, little did he know.

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I've a similar story to yours, Mike.

The road to my house is a narrow single track on a 1:6 hill, bounded on both sides by unforgiving stone walls.

Some years ago my wife and daughter were working in catering and I had to venture out around midnight to give them a lift back from work. There had been a fall of wet snow that evening, about 5cm, but I really couldn't face clearing 150 yds of road to get to the main road so thought I'd probably be o.k if I was careful.

I edged down the hill and made it to the main road without mishap, picked up the family, and one of their work colleagues, and set off back.

Alarm bells began to ring when I dropped off the work colleague as the car moved about 10 yds under its own voilition after I'd come to a very gentle halt outside her house.

We made it back into the village and then attempted the hill to our house. It's not possible to get a really good run at it as it's a fairly sharp left turn from the main road but I gave it my best shot.

The first 70 yds weren't too bad but the fact that there was no option but to run in the tyre tracks I'd made on the way down finally took its toll.

The wet snow had been compressed into wet ice by my first journey and I lost traction just before the steepest part of the hill. Once traction was lost the car began to slide back down at ever increasing speed. On the left side of the road was a fairly deep rainwater gulley, then the wall; on the other side about 2 feet of space and another wall.

By pure luck I managed to avoid both walls on the way down, even after a brief spell in the gulley, but then had to negotiate the bend at the bottom to avoid piling into another stone wall immediately behind me. By this time the car was doing about 20 mph in reverse and I had two terrified and screaming women hiding their heads in the back seat. I turned the wheel at what I thought was the appropriate time and, miraculously, missed the stone wall at the bottom of the hill and shot out onto the main road: fortunately as it was so late nothing was on it.

I was beginning to mentally congratulate myself on a narrow escape but had underestimated the momentum of the car which then mounted the pavement at the opposite side of the road and headed towards another substantial stone wall bounding the churchyard.

In a desperate attempt to do something; anything; I wrenched the wheel to full lock. The car spun slightly on the pavement and continued to slide but at more of an angle to the stone wall, eventually coming to a halt with about two inches of space between the drivers rear wing and the church gatepost.

That was enough for one evening. I left it 'parked' there and we walked up the hill. I got up fairly early the next morning and, with the aid of a shovel and some grit, retrieved the vehicle and parked it elsewhere before too many people saw it.

If I'd been wearing the heart monitor I use when cycle training I'm fairly sure it would have set a new record that night.

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Not as dramatic or interesting as the above but when I was on a snow chase at Guyra about 18 months ago. I went up to the local lookout and started walking along the wooden platform. There was a thin snowy/icy mix on the wood. I had a bit too much spring in my step, and weeeeeeee my legs went in opposite directions ahead and behind, and I did the splits, just had enough of a reflex / realisation of what was happening to hold my camera up in the air making sure it didn't get broken.

I didn't injure myself, just shocked. Although, I found out I was more flexible than I thought I was, lol. Nearly slipped over getting back up though.

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