Driving in a Winter Wonderland
During winter storm Goliath, the winter conditions caused five days of nonstop work for towing
companies, recovery crews, highway departments, and law enforcement with wrecks like this one in
Roswell, N.M. Photo by Scott Earle.
While students at Eastern New Mexico University enjoyed some unexpected time to relax or catch up on
schoolwork during the snow and ice on Feb. 4-5, others were out working in the worst of the bad
weather. Working for All-Rite Towing, Scott Earle of Tucumcari worked nearly a 24-hour shift in the cold,
slick, snowy conditions. While the snow itself wasn’t as much of a problem, the fact that it froze on the
roads as soon as it landed proved to be a major issue.
“It was slick; drivers were running too fast,” Earle said.
Starting with typical service calls around 1 a.m. on Feb. 4, when the snow started to come down around
5 a.m., the calls started to come in, beginning with a state police dispatch. Throughout the day, Earle
worked a car rollover, a conversion camper, and a jackknifed semi that ended up in the bar ditch
alongside the road, along with continued service calls for cold-related troubles such as blown tires.
Although the cold kept him busy, it wasn’t the worst day he’s seen. When winter storm Goliath hit in
December 2015, calls kept him and entire crews out for five days straight while he was working in
“You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. It was nothing but white, kind of apocalyptic,
definitely desolate,” Earle mentioned.
Conditions like that can be taxing at best, but although the cold can be quite miserable, Earle says he’s
pretty warm-blooded. Everyone else, on the other hand, is stuck dressing up like the Michelin man.
Lots of layers and waterproof clothing are some suggestions to beating the cold.
“Good shoes and warm socks are a must,” said Earle.
While precautions must be taken for the human body in extreme cold, equipment needs special care,
too. Metal can shrink in frigid conditions, causing it to become brittle. That can be a problem not only
for an average commuter, but for towing companies as well. Earle says that winch cables are more
susceptible to breaks and frays in the cold, which makes dragging cars out of ditches a lot more
challenging. Diesel can gel, causing recovery vehicles to not want to start and even the newest
equipment to fail, and airlines can freeze as well if air tanks aren’t drained on bigger vehicles. This
causes brakes to fail, among other issues.
When it comes to safe driving, he shared several tips.
“Take it easy…no quick and abrupt motions. If you’re in a big rig [or a heavy duty pickup], no engine
brake. If you’ve got a trailer and it’s jackknifing, use your trailer brakes.”
Along with that, Earle said tire chains are a good idea, and on smaller cars, tires with winter tread are a
wise investment for someone who knows they’re going to have to deal with bad weather.
“If you don’t have to go out, stay at home. If it’s not a must, don’t fuss, stay at home,” he stated with a