On Thin Ice: The Dangers of the Frozen Road


Photo contributed by Max Liben '14, Graphic by Ryder Chasin '14

Many students—like Max Liben ’14—have damaged their cars driving in the inclement weather.

On Monday, Jan. 28, snow and sleet fell outside classroom windows as many districts surrounding Westport began to call half-days in preparation for unsafe road conditions. Some members of the Staples community were anticipating a half-day, but became more and more discouraged as the clock ticked closer to 2:15.

Jacob Meisel ’13, a student meteorologist, was shocked that Superintendent Elliot Landon did not call for a half-day.

“It was clear that temperatures would be below freezing with precipitation other than snow after around 1 p.m. in the afternoon,” he said. “There was a moderate to heavy period of sleet and freezing rain that had been forecasted for a while by the weather computer models, and seeing that burst of precipitation while the high school, and maybe even elementary schools, would be letting out was a concern.”

Students such as Max Liben ’14, who hit a patch of black ice while driving home, expressed their concerns about unsafe roads.

Liben explained that he was driving on Salem Road below the speed limit when he rounded a corner and the back wheels of his car started to slip out. He tried to regain control of the car, but over corrected and when he finally did regain traction, his car spun off the road.

“I came to a stop between a tree and a pile of rocks,” he said. “I was completely fine and so was my car, but one of my tires was impaled by a branch.”

While at first Liben did not see any other damages, he later realized that a small piece that connects the sway bar to the wheel had been broken.

He also said that the roads were not the only treacherous place to drive, and that the school parking lot was also dangerous on both Monday and Tuesday, after the precipitation had frozen over night.

“Throughout the whole walk over from Wakeman the next morning, there was black ice all over the parking lots,” he said. “It was hard to walk without slipping at least a little.”

Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that she slipped multiple times on her walk from Wakeman to school.

“I was concentrating on trying not to fall because it looked really icy. However, I’m a klutz and even though I was paying attention, I completely wiped out over some ice that was totally visible,” she said. “Even though I saw the ice and was going slowly, it was so slippery that I still fell.”

Principal John Dodig said that when he arrived at school, he radioed Horace Lewis, the head custodian, who said that the town promised to be at the school to salt the parking lot by 7, but they did not show up until 7:30.

“By 7:30 it was too late, we were already in school, but we live in New England,” he said. “We have foul weather, but you still get up, clean off the car, and get to work.”

            Meisel acknowledges that while the storm was not as bad as he had predicted, he still felt that Landon had made a hazardous decision in choosing to forgo a half-day.

“I respect his call as it was definitely a close decision with no real, defined way to go, though I still am not sure it was worth the risk,” he said.