For those who live in Maine or have been here through at least one winter, it is clear that residents of this state have a particular attitude toward snow. This attitude doesn’t account for whether we like it or not. Instead, Mainers often show an invincibility complex toward the harsh weather. Since winters up here are often as hazardous as they are long, a certain numbness settles in beyond cold faces and hands. Sub-zero temperatures are normal. Wind-chill is the worst, but expected. But these conditions demand serious attention, no matter how accustomed some of us are.
The Bangor region has faced what feels like non-stop snow since February started. The blizzard conditions starting Feb. 12 and extending into the evening of Feb. 13 come after several smaller snowstorms from the week before. Other states facing similar snow have largely shut down to wait out the bad weather. In Maine, these conditions are nothing unusual.
Though plowing services on and off campus are usually prompt, it is still best to limit travel as much as possible during these conditions. Many drivers on campus may not have experience driving on snowy or icy roads. The dangers of black ice are obvious, but slush and fresh snow on roads can pose as much of a threat without the proper mentality.
Not every car slipping through campus will be necessarily equipped for Maine roads, either. We have a significant out-of-state student population which may not have snow tires on their vehicles. UMaine also has plenty of commuters with longer travel times than someone who may live five minutes from campus. Even with proper snow tires and four-wheel drive, accidents can still happen. The UMaine community has already seen too many students pass away from fatal crashes. Trying to carry on through the treacherous weather is not worth the potential consequences.
Driving is not the only risk that comes with snowstorms. Though not as common as car accidents, the risk of hypothermia is very real with the winds and low temperatures we face. Schools in other states sometimes refuse to send their children outside during cold recesses. Meanwhile, Maine children are often sent outside with their hats, mittens, snow pants, scarves and everything else piled on. This isn’t detrimental in most cases but a good example of how we largely view winter as something to deal with head-on, rather than something that sometimes requires a standoff of staying inside and waiting it out.
The mentality of roughing through every snowstorm needs to come down a few notches. Proper preparation is a wonderful thing, until it makes you think that snowy conditions aren’t a big deal. Life cannot indefinitely stop when a storm hits — we are living in Maine, after all. But be ready to deal with some potentially dangerous conditions. If your vehicle starts to slide, do not fight it. This almost always makes the situation worse. Don’t use your brakes and don’t overcompensate with the wheel. Stay inside and understand that weather is always going to be out of our hands, no matter how much we wish we could control it.