Stay home, everyone

It got a bit icy in Minneapolis today. We had a little bit of road ballet going on.

Unfortunately, the guy recording this had to brag, “My trusty Tesla Model S AWD had no issues getting around so long as you went 5MPH”. No. I don’t care how expensive and shiny your vehicle is, get off the road. These are not safe road conditions.

OK, maybe if you’re driving a tank you could handle it.


  1. says

    I once had a conversation with a panzergrenadier officer who fought at Kursk and through the Russian winter. He said he saw a Panzer IV blow across ice just like that schoolbus.

    I guess a tank isn’t likely to flip over. So there’s that.

  2. nomdeplume says

    Marcus, you beat me too it, was going to suggest the Germans didn’t find tanks reliable in the Russian winter.

    Perhaps, PZ, you could get out your trusty cross-country skis?

    Oh, and send some cold weather to Australia. I am faced with more days of catastrophic fire conditions – high temperatures, wind, smoke, drought.

  3. says

    Are Minnesota winters as evil as Russian winters?

    Not trying to start a fight. I did experience some Fargo winter and that was enough for me! I went home and wrapped up in every piece of polartec I could find.

  4. whheydt says

    About the Russian winters…. During WW2 winters, the Russians built a rail line across the ice of the lake behind Leningrad (aka St. Petersburg) and ran trains pulled by steam locomotives across it…

  5. brightmoon says

    It’s 50F here in NYC. I just went to the store in a sweater. New York City now has weather like North Carolina did 50 years ago. I hated the cold but I hate this too. It’s going to kill a lot of trees.

  6. smellyoldgit says

    I’m surprised PZ’s highways authorities don’t pre-grit or salt the roads to try and avoid sideways sliding shenanigans. ….. or did they try, but ain’t very good at it?

  7. rabbitbrush says

    This is one way to get around in conditions like that. Except, there’s no rink rail to hang on to…

    [That’s in Savage, MN. Such a great name for a town!]

  8. jrkrideau says

    Looks a bit slippy. It’s time for /h Korkers Ultra ice Cleats..

    I, also, have studded winter tires for the bicycle. If it gets really bad I suppose it is time for skates.

    @ 5 whheydt
    During WW2 winters, the Russians built a rail line across the ice of Lake Ladoga]

    Canadians did the same when building a bridge across the St Lawrence from Montreal to the South shore. Two or three feet of ice can take a lot of weight.

  9. jrkrideau says

    @ 7 smellyoldgit
    I’m surprised PZ’s highways authorities don’t pre-grit or salt the roads

    Depending on temperature and rainfall those efforts might work for no more than 10 minutes before the salt disappers under a glaze of ice. In better conditions, you might get an hour.

    @ 3 nomdeplume
    Skis are likely to be suicidal. @ 8 rabbitbrush has the best solution.

  10. wzrd1 says

    Tanks have to have different track shoes to operate on ice, shoes that would actually dig into the ice – and the highway, rather ruining the surface.

    Still, I remember the old days, when we had studded snow tires, which helped keep traction on ice quite well. Pure hell on the highway in spring and summer, which rather caused states to strongly discourage their usage, as far too many people just didn’t bother either removing the studs from the tires or change out to regular tires.

    Still, the safest and sanest thing to do is simply stay home. Don’t get me started on how many people I’ve heard exclaim, “But, but, I have four wheel drive”, to which I replied, “Yes, alas, you entirely failed to have four wheel stop”.

    @7, “I’m surprised PZ’s highways authorities don’t pre-grit or salt the roads to try and avoid sideways sliding shenanigans. ….. or did they try, but ain’t very good at it?”
    I remember back around 1997, we had severe ice storms. Memorable, due to my wife falling and rupturing a disc, resulting in permanent disability, as advanced osteoporosis from PCOS rendered her condition inoperable.
    I was driving a service van with around a half ton of equipment, which did much what the bus did. I managed to steer the skid into a controlled entry onto the grass on the right side of the city highway, then take a different route and went home. I called the office and explained that conditions were too hazardous to operate the vehicle with any degree of safety.
    An hour later, the service center manager called, quite hopelessly stuck in traffic and ordered our fleet off of the roads.
    The highways were gritted, unfortunately, the ice outpaced the grit, covering it. The only roads passable were those that had SEPTA trolley lines on them, as those were constantly gritting to maintain traction on their tracks and those were the roads I took to get back to my house.
    Upon parking, as I exited the vehicle, it rolled back and broke the grille of the car behind me. Got back in, reparked off of the vehicle, to get out again and get berated by the owner – while we were between the two vehicles. Mine started sliding again, while the annoying neighbor continued berating me, I put my hand up and stopped the slide.
    Once I was tired of the individual’s wasting both of our time, rather than exchanging insurance information, I asked her, “Perhaps, you’d prefer to continue this discussion someplace safer?”, moving my hand two inches away from the vehicle, which duly slid into contact with my hand.
    Said vociferous one wisely decided to exchange insurance information away from between a couple of tons of vehicle and equipment and their vehicle and I released my vehicle and allowed it to complete the job on the radiator grille.
    I will admit to some satisfaction when the owner observed the impact, realizing we both could’ve literally lost both of our legs…
    The company insurance paid, end of story.

    tldr; grit don’t mean shit if ice covers over the grit faster than one can apply it.

  11. whheydt says

    Re: brightmoon @ #6…
    My father (born 1910) used to reminisce about ice skating on the East River at mid-town Manhattan. However, it’s nice to know–from what you wrote–that temps are reasonable for my son and his family.

  12. Dahak says

    Tanks may be good at driving in rough terrain but if the ice is slippery enough even they go sideways:

  13. microraptor says

    Marcus Ranum @1: German tanks were actually known for having particularly poor performance in icy conditions during World War 2. Most had relatively narrow tracks, and they tried to use special cleats that were attached to the regular tracks rather than using tracks that were specially designed for use on ice. The cleats did little to aid in traction and a lot to damage the tank’s motive system while it was moving. Soldiers pointed out the flaws pretty quickly, but as Nazi command was doing an unbelievable amount of cocaine and meth on top of also being generally disinclined to believe that they were capable of making mistakes, nothing ever got done to fix the problems.

  14. unclefrogy says

    it is pictures like those that make appreciate rainy days out here on the south west coast
    yes indoors with a hot drink is the place to be!
    may be the vehicle you need is a sno-cat?
    uncle frogy

  15. komarov says

    That tank video does suggest you could drive a tank as if flying a rocketship in space, i.e. by selectively applying thrust in different directions to counter unwanted sliding. Now maybe if you bolted a couple of control thrusters to the tank (or replaced the gun turret with a giant gyroscope) you could turn it fast enough to be able to change the direction of acceleration as needed. It doesn’t look like the tracks alone would be able to turn the tank fast enough and improving their traction would render the exercise moot and therfore boring. No doubt this woud be a fun contraption to drive.

    P.S.: I particularly enjoyed the clip where the driver took the time to pan around their camera while driving, in a video illustrating how dangerous the roads are. Well done with the priorities.

  16. says

    Having 4WD and studded tires improves grip. For your car. It does however nothing for other cars. So until idiots learn when to stay the f*ck off the roads it doesn’t really improve the odds that much.

  17. jrkrideau says

    “My trusty Tesla Model S AWD had no issues getting around so long as you went 5MPH”.
    Keep an eye out for videos of spinning Teslas or a Tesla wrapped around a pole.

  18. Reginald Selkirk says

    It’s all about the tires. The tires are the only part of the car that actually contacts the road. If this is not true for you, then you have more serious problems than we can deal with here. 4WD and AWD provide extra traction for moving, but they don’t do anything to help braking. Anti-lock brakes and traction control do help with braking, but that is limited to keeping the vehicle in a more-or-less straight line and getting the most of the traction available. They can’t turn nothing into something.

  19. flexilis says

    Uncle frogy@ 17 Snowcats are good in deep snow but can also slide on ice. I put in a lot of time in them, and also snowmobiles, on a former job. Once had to shovel dirt onto the trail to get a ‘ cat up a sleep icy hill.

  20. madtom1999 says

    #19 Having four wheel drive is only of any use if you know how to drive in icy conditions. Most people seem to put it into low ratio and then even a slight twitch on the gas and your spinning. I used to drive a VW bus and the journey to work was strewn with wide wheeled high powered 44s whereas in my underpowered thin wheeled jalopy i could cruise slowly in 2nd and the only time I slid a bit was when a 44 came out of someone’ cleared drive onto the road and then sideways into the opposite ditch causing me to brake – but of course only with two wheels so relatively easy to get it back under control – modern 4*4s seem unrecoverable as all 4 wheels seem to start slipping at once due to overconfident idiots in charge.

  21. calgor says

    Having the right kit is useful, but having the right knowledge is vital… I remember several years ago travelling in the UK during a heavy snowfall. While my car was adequate, it was not configured for snowy weather (I have travelled under harsh arctic conditions before so personally I was equipped for worst case…)

    The journey should have taken 4 hours under ideal conditions – I planned 8 hours, it took 19… most of the time spent helping people out of crashed cars after they lost control but 4 hours were lost when someone decided that the snow plough wasn’t going fast enough and overtook it, wiping out the snowplough and blocking the road.

  22. says

    Winter ice roads are used by some communities in northern parts of Canada and parts of Alaska. There was even a reality series, Ice Road Truckers, that followed drivers on some of those routes. However climate change may cause problems as they’re opening later in the season for shorter times, and some may not open at all.

    I don’t know how they do it elsewhere, but in Saskatoon at least roads aren’t sanded until after a snow storm starts. All pre-sanding would do is see the sand buried under the snow.

  23. robro says

    Interesting experience clicking that first link to the Fox9 KMSP story. There’s a video in a larger format in the story. It appears to be a post from someone’s FaceBook timeline. Anyway, I clicked it to watch and got a message saying: Do you want to allow “” to use cookies and website data while browsing “”? This will allow “” to track your activity.” I clicked Don’t Allow and the video stopped. I assume this is normal for any website with the resources to set it up, but a stark example of the way our patterns of use can be shared between FaceBook and a local Fox affiliate…and I assume the likely possibility of the larger Fox enterprise.

  24. jrkrideau says

    Oh no! It’s coming our way!
    4:55 AM EST Sunday 29 December 2019
    Freezing rain warning in effect for:

    Kingston - Odessa - Frontenac Islands
    Napanee - Consecon

    Ice storm possible late today and continuing Monday.

    Freezing rain is expected to develop late this afternoon or this evening. The freezing rain may taper off briefly tonight but will redevelop early Monday and continue through the day. The freezing rain will finally transition to snow or rain Monday afternoon.

    Ice accretion or build-up of 10 to 15 mm is possible and widespread power outages are likely. Travel conditions are expected to deteriorate this afternoon and remain poor into Monday.

    Some stores are reported to be sold out of salt already. Those of us who survived the Great Ice Storm of ’98 tend to get a bit worried when we hear “freezing rain” forecast.

  25. davidc1 says

    Didn’t know the Russians build a railway across the lake ,i thought it was trucks .Even when the Germans got heavier tanks with wider tracks lie the Panther and Tiger tanks ,the running gear was made up of multiple pairs of overlapping wheels ,which trapped mud and snow which froze solid .

    @24 Sounds like a leaver /tory voter to me .
    For all you furriners out there ,better explain the GB comes to a stop at the lightest dusting of snow .