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WeatherTalk: Little storms cause bigger problems

When the forecast calls for light snow or patchy freezing drizzle, there is a tendency for people to hit the highways.

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In some ways, relatively minor winter weather systems are more dangerous than the really big storms. When the region is shut down by a big blizzard, most folks close the door and stay in. However, when the forecast calls for light snow or patchy freezing drizzle, there is a tendency for many people to hit the highways despite the weather.

The National Highway Traffic Administration claims that about one-fourth of all highway accidents are weather-related. Most of these crashes happen when icy conditions are just beginning, and not when the freeway gates are closed. Of course, the bigger storms have a greater impact overall, as schools and businesses are shut down, but the underlying fact remains that we are far more likely than we probably think to be involved in a serious or fatal car accident when there is just a little snow coming down and we are tempted to drive a little too fast for the conditions.

John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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