As the old Christmas carols goes, “‘Tis the season to be jolly.” Also, ‘tis the season to be careful!

Winter driving brings its own unique problems and demands, so the Virginia Department of Transportation offers drivers in the Commonwealth a lot of great resources.

Before we look at those Internet sites, let’s do a quick review of the driving conditions you might encounter during the winter months and the way you will hear it described in weather reports.

  • Freezing Rain is rain that falls as a liquid but freezes when it comes in contact with the ground or objects. It creates a coating of ice on roads and walkways. Be very careful; what may look like a wet spot on the road could easily be a patch of ice.
  • Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground, again causing roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • When you hear that there is a Winter Weather Advisory, this means that cold, ice and snow are expected.
  • A Frost/Freeze Warning means that below-freezing temperatures are expected.
  • If the National Weather Service issues a Winter Storm Watch, that means severe weather, such as heavy snow or ice, is possible today or in the next day or two.
  • When they issue a Winter Storm Warning, this means that severe winter conditions have begun or will begin very soon. This is a good time to stay home or return home as soon as possible.
  • When you hear them mention a Blizzard Warning, heavy snow and strong winds will be producing a blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill. Again, stay home if possible.

When you are traveling during the winter months, there are a lot of online resources you can call upon to provide information prior to getting on the road. A great site to bookmark in your Internet browser covers Virginia driving in general – www.511virginia.org. This is V-DOT’s main site for travel info.

If you want to go immediately to their Road Conditions page, you can simply click on 511virginia.org/Conditions.aspx?r=1. This interactive map covers the entire area with the ability to choose localities within Virginia.

For general winter travel information, a great page to visit is www.virginiadot.org/travel/snow.asp. This site offers a number of links that are useful for winter driving.

In addition, V-Dot is on YouTube with helpful “how to” videos, including several topics related to winter driving – www.youtube.com/user/vdotweb#g/c/84A0942814F2FECC.

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