Connecticut driving in winter

Old May 5th, 2006, 12:47 AM
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Connecticut driving in winter

Hi, I'm planning ot move to Connecticut in a few months. Since I've never actually lived in or visited a place where it snows, I thought it would be a good idea to find out about driving around in winter. I'm thinking of staying in downtown New Haven, and drive everyday to work [about 20km]. Will the driving time be more in winter? Should I think of staying nearer to my workplace just for this one reason? I also see that many rental places in CT do not offer covered parking. Do you think this would be important once it starts snowing? Your coments and helpful suggestions are greatly appreciated.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 03:10 AM
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Towns in the North, like New Haven, are well prepared to deal with winter. They have the equipment and people in place to clear streets of snow and ice. This means snow plows and salt/sand spreader trucks.

A typical winter will have 2-3 good sized snow storms (snow depth more than say 6" depth). Some winters there will be a major storm or 2, dumping a foot or more, but many winters there will be no such snowfall.

There maybe be more frequent minor dustings - ranging from <1" to maybe 2-3" snow.

With the minor snow levels, salt/sand spreaders and traffic will melt the snow in the driving lanes quickly and rarely disrupt any driving conditions.

A 3-4" storm will cause more road problems. Road crews will start to plow when about 2" falls, and workers will either cut out early to beat the accumulation or go to work late to wait till crews have done clearing. Since everybody does this, employers are very understanding and it only happens a few times each winter. Major roads will be cleared first - it's often the neighborhood streets that get delayed clearing.

Anything more than 4-6" will cause more disruption - people will stay home or work from home. Kids may be out of school for the day.

A lot depends on WHEN the snow falls. The worst case for driving is when it starts to snow about 5-6am so people set out to commute a little later with only a little snow, then are out on the roads when it gets worse.

20km (12mi) is not too far. A little patience, a little practice driving in the snow (spinning donuts in the school parking lot) and you'll be fine.

Covered parking would be nice, and inside garage even better, but many many people park their cars outside.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 04:44 AM
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If you have a car that has all wheel drive, you'll have better traction in the snow. To me, it really makes a difference.

I bought a car with front wheel drive after having driven an all wheel drive vehicle the winter before. I couldn't get up the driveway in the new vehicle if there was more than 6" of snow on the ground. It just slipped sideways (and we really didn't have much of an incline). So on heavy snow days, I went back to driving the all wheel drive backup car with over 120,000 miles on it. No problem getting up the drive - it just plowed through the snow and gripped the road.

However, a caution. Many New Englanders who have all wheel/four wheel drive tend to drive too fast during the snow because their cars are steadier on the road. Just because you have better control of the car during the winter doesn't meet you should be zipping through traffic.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 04:47 AM
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oops, correction -- doesn't mean you should be zipping through traffic.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 04:54 AM
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IMHO, it's downtown New Haven that you should be concerned about, not driving in snow.

Depending on the specific community were you'll be working, yes, you should probably consider living near your workplace. Get used to talking in terms of miles, rather than km, since that's what everyone else will be using.

As was pointed out, northern communities are accustomed to dealing with snow and have the equpment for dealing with it. Usually, traffic is disrupted only moderately during a snowstorm, and shortly afterwards during cleanup.

Covered parking is certainly preferable.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 05:17 AM
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Having lived my entire life in northern Michigan, plagued by piles of lake-effect snow every winter until I moved to Connecticut in 1997, winter driving was pretty much just like driving any other time, with a little more caution thrown in.

In the 5 years I lived in Connecticut, it felt like every time it snowed was the first time people there saw snow. Even for a couple inches of snow, people bought every last loaf of bread and gallon of milk from the grocery stores, and drive times increased significantly from non-snowy days. Thankfully, there were only a handful of these types of days each winter.

Connecticut also tends to get more icy days than snowy ones, and those are the days that are the worst for driving. Four wheel drive won't do much for you on solid ice.

That said, it's not really anything worth worrying too much about. Snowy days aren't that frequent most winters (though you could certainly have an abnomally high-snow winter sometimes), and you'll soon enough get accustomed to driving in it if you're careful. You'll have to plan extra time into your drive on the snowy days, and if you can manage to get a car with anti-lock brakes that will help. (ABS is much more important than 4WD for driving on main roads and freeways, since you'll rarely if ever have to trudge through deep snow on them.)
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Old May 5th, 2006, 07:59 AM
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First of all - driving in snow is a different skill than driving on dry pavement. You need to learn how to do it.

Even with the best cleaning the towns can come up with you will find driving in snow MUCH slower. Also, once the snow melts and freezes you can get black (invisible) ice which is very dangerous.

If you have never driven in snow/ice before have someone teach you how.

Cars with 4 wheel drive are said to be better - but I've always driven front-wheel without any trouble. Cars with rear-wheel drive are VERY dangerous under these conditions and should be left in the garage. Having a car with heated mirrors is also an advantage - so the snow can't collect and block your vision while you're driving.

Parking in a garage is naturally better since then you don't have to take an hour or more to dig your car out of the snow (assuming street parking). If you rent part of a house you may also have to shovel out the driveway.

Also - you will need to equip your car for the snow with a shovel, a brush/scraper for the snow and ice on the windows and top. I also always carry a couple of bags of cat litter - good for putting under your wheels if you get stuck on ice.

Finally - if you find yourself on ice NEVER STOP - keep going - no matter how slowly - and the slower the better - since once you stop it's very difficult to get moving again.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 08:13 AM
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Don't forget to rush to the supermarket and buy white bread, batteries, bottled water and other needed supplies as soon as you hear that a snow storm is fore casted.
As to type of car the one most likely to be upside down in the middle of the hi-way is a 4X4.An old ratty escort is a safer bet and no one will try to steal it.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 08:15 AM
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First of all...

Getting anywhere from New Haven can be a disatser when it's sunny out, not to mention snowing. Where will you be working? I would definitely live on whatever side of the Q bridge you will be working or else you will spend a good amount of time in bumper to bumper traffic every day.

The driving time will definitely be more in snow, this depends on what highways you will need to take.

The snow removal abilities in CT tend to be quite poor. This isn't Buffalo, NY unfortunately. Some towns purchase "Snow Insurance" where they pay a set premium and all snow removal is covered that year. Some pay as they go and come March, they could be financially strapped to efficiently clear the streets. I'm not sure how great New Haven itself is with clearing the snow, I live closer to the NW corner and you really must have 4WD to venture out in the snow, New Haven won't be as bad.

Another thing to consider, if you live in downtown NH I assume you'll be parking on the street and you'll always have to worry about "alternate side of the street parking rules" in winter or else you will be towed.

I've lived in CT for 35 years and I think winter is very difficult because we get enough snow to make it dangerous but not enough snow to invest in the infrastructure to deal with it. I find places like Buffalo, VT, New Hampshire to actually be much safer than CT when it comes to driving in the snow because they know how to deal with it. Also, CT is much more crowded and the roads can't handle the traffic as it is.

You may want to consider West Haven, East Haven, or Middletown depending on where you're working.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 02:56 PM
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Everybody has given great advice. Let me ask what car are you planning to drive in CT? Some performance cars come only with "summer tires", and YOU WILL DIE if driving them in cold weather, let alone snowy conditions.

Make sure your tires have the letter "M+S" on it, meaning it's a all-season tire suitable for cold conditions.

If you're planning to use a high-powered rear-wheel drive car, you should get an extra set of wheels with snow/winter tires on them. Swap back to your regular summer setup in the spring.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 03:22 PM
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I won't tell you how long I've lived in Connecticut because it makes me sound so old....but, suffice it to say it's a veerryyy long time.

I've found that the way the roads are cleaned and sanded varies greatly from town to town. Luckily I live in a town that does a phenomenol job of keeping the roads clean, but it also has steep windy country roads, so both my husband and I have 4WD, there are many days when we couldn't drive without it.

Remember that New Haven is on the sound, so gets much less snow than towns even 5 miles inland. I wouldn't worry too much about the snow, just take it slow, get front or 4WD, and antilock brakes and you should be OK.

Whoever said that people with 4WD think they're invincible wasn't kidding, I can't tell you how many recent city transplants I've seen in their Hummers or Range Rovers sliding all over the place or spinning out(all the while on their cell phones)because they don't know how to drive. I try to stay far, far away from them.....!
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Old May 5th, 2006, 11:07 PM
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HI all...thats been a very informative set of messages....thanks a lot. I made a small mistake...I will actually be driving about 20 miles [and not kilometers like I'd written] to work at Bridgeport. I was thinking of getting one of the new small cars such as Toyota Yaris or HOnda Fit..... alternatively a pre-owned Toyota Corolla. I have, like I said, zero experience driving on anything remotely connected to snow or ice. Any recommendations based on these facts? Also, somebody had expressed concern regarding staying in downtown New Haven...I was actually thinking of the East Rock area which seemed to be okay. Any opinion regarding this, or alternative towns to stay? Schools are not a problem since I don't have kids....safety, and accessibility to malls and entertainment [not bars, but theatres], and easy commute to work are my only concerns.
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Old May 6th, 2006, 06:24 AM
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You won't have problem in a small front wheel drive car like those you mentioned on most days. Like others have said, have an ice scapper in the car through winter. Buy a shovel since your car will be parked outdoors. Bring it with you to work on heavy snow days as you may need it enroute and to dig your car out after work.

This is unless you have a steep driveway to climb. That may cause a problem.

Also, understand that those cars are front wheel drive. So, if you see a parking spot that has heavy snow in the end, please back into the spot and don't head in. You want your drive wheels (front) to get most traction.

Be very careful when driving. After a few storms, you'll know how to do it.

If you're interested in REALLY REALLY know how to drive on loose surface, there's a rally school in New Hampshire that I've gone to, where you can learn car control in a safe environment on snow. It's also a lot of fun. But that's pretty advanced and not really necessary.
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Old May 6th, 2006, 07:06 AM
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I lived in the East Rocks section of N.H. (near the Yale Bowl) right afeter I graduated from college and I drove a Toyota Tercel and don't recall ever having a problem.

I also don't recall ever worrying about safety, but that was 20 years ago so I don't know if the area has changed.
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Old May 6th, 2006, 09:29 AM
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I would just add that when you are here and have your first snowfall, see if you can't find a nearby parking lot - church, school, mall - where you can drive around a bit and get a feel for breaking and turning in the snow so you get the feel of when/how to break and turn before you are doing it in traffic.

Usually, if the schools are open, the roads are fine. Sometimes you will have a 'school delay" if they need an extra hour to get the roads cleared - If not, and school is cancelled, which doesn't happen too often - that's the day you work out of your house !

If it starts coming down fast and you are at work, I would hope at least the first few times your company would understand and let you leave early if public transportation is not an option for your location.

Welcome to New England!
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