There are a lot of people on Whidbey Island from the Midwest and Alaska, and many of them are bemused by how Pacific Northwest residents seem to freak out when it snows.
Schools are shut down. Businesses close. A lot of cars seem to end up in the ditch. Some nervous drivers slow to a crawl and randomly slam on their brakes at the first sight of snowflakes.
Which is all perfectly understandable. People can’t get experience driving in the snow when it happens so rarely and quickly melts away. Local governments have limited means for clearing roads because it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on a fleeting inconvenience.
Fortunately, snow brings out the Good Samaritans. People all over the island helped strangers push or pull cars out of snowdrifts, shoveled neighbors’ driveways, ran to the store for those in need and watched kids for parents who couldn’t get the day off.
Amelie Johnston is 89 years old and lives in a somewhat secluded area of North Whidbey. She contacted the newspaper to express her thanks for firefighters who shoveled 14 inches of snow off her deck. It was the third time that the volunteers came to the rescue in recent weather-related emergencies.
The Island County sheriff advises people to just stay home when it snows, if possible.
A new survey from Pemco Mutual Insurance, however, shows that 62 percent of Northwesterners say they feel pressure to show up at work despite snowy or icy driving conditions.
Moreover, the study found that Northwestern drivers think they are more than capable. A total of 63 percent of Washington men believe they’re more skillful than other drivers on the road, while 39 percent of Washington women make that same claim.
Another study, however, found that Washington state drivers are actually among the worst in the nation, based on numbers of accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs and fatalities.
But whatever a drivers’ confidence level, staying off the road is the best bet. For those who cannot, the sheriff offers tips for drivers in case the snow returns:
• Increase following distances.
• Slow down and accelerate slowly.
• Don’t slam on brakes.
• Turn on headlights.
• Keep water, a blanket and a first aid kit in the car.
• Wear seat belts.