Why Snow Tires Matter

(An Annual Post)

Get yourself some snow tires.

Your pickup or SUV? Its 4 or all wheel drive will help you get un-stuck, and it’ll help you get going on some #sloppery stuff. Its ground clearance may occasionally help you ford a river or drive over a big snowball. But its mass is such that it makes it especially difficult to stop.

Your anti-lock brakes? They’ll help you avoid a skid by automatically applying and releasing the brakes in quick succession, but they won’t help you avoid an accident if you’re going too fast.

Or if your tires suck.

Thursday morning’s commute in Buffalo was your typical rush hour first-snow crawl. (Snowvember doesn’t count because most everything/one was closed that day). Just about every route was packed in, at a standstill. A 40 minute commute took me – no joke – 2 1/2 hours.

Aside from all the dummies who thought it was good enough to just brush the snow off the windshield and nothing else, there were myriad people blocking intersections, sliding around, and getting stuck because they have crap tires. Even if you have a brand-new set of decent all-weather tires, they might as well be bald in the kind of wet, slushy snow we got yesterday morning.

The best of all possible worlds? AWD or 4WD with snow tires. If you have a Subaru or Audi Quattro with a good set of snows, your car will be bulletproof in the ice and snow. But the big secret is that you don’t need the extra cost, heft, and maintenance that comes with powering all four wheels – not in WNY, where the main roads generally get cleared pretty well.

Get yourself some snow tires, instead.

For instance, some local tire stores will store your summer tires in the winter, and vice-versa. For free. Go in, pay about $100, and they’ll do the switchover, usually installing snows in November and summers in April. You extend the lives of both sets of tires, and you’ll have the appropriate shoes on your car.

You don’t wear flip-flops in 6″ of snow. You don’t wear snowboots when it’s 80 degrees out. Why do that to your car?


Make sure your winter tires have this symbol

In some countries, snow tires are mandated. This is a smart idea and something that snowy climates should seriously consider. Driving is no joke, and if you’re hurtling a 2-ton piece of rubber and metal down the street in a snowstorm, other drivers should have some semblance of assurance that you’re appropriately equipped. Snow tires are different from summer or all-weather tires in that they use a softer rubber compound, and feature deep sipes that literally help the car dig into the snow and ice. The best set I ever owned were Finnish-made Hakkapeliitta 2s, which rendered a car that had no traction control into a snow tank.  I always had to get them online, which is a hassle, but I haven’t not put snow tires on a car since my second winter here. You can get a set of Blizzaks, which are very good, or whatever your local tire shop offers, which will be fine, too.

Quebec mandated that all vehicles registered there are equipped with winter tires Between December 15th until March 15th, or else risk a $200 – 300 fine. Despite the fact that Quebec had a winter tire adoption rate of 90% before the law was passed, since its passage wintertime accidents have decreased by 17%, and accidents causing serious injury or death dropped by 36%.

Snow tires also help immensely with lateral traction – in other words, they’ll help you navigate turns.

You can’t leave them on all year, because the rubber compound only works well in the cold weather. But if you, for instance, go from no snow tires on a slippery day to snow tires, you’ll be astonished by the difference in traction you have. Not just start and stop traction, but especially lateral traction, when you’re turning. Traction / stability control will help, too.

We’re known for snow. We get snow. You drive in it. If you enjoy having control over your car in the snow, ice, and slush – the ability to start, stop, turn, and drive with some modicum of safety – pay your local tire guy, car dealer, or mechanic a visit. Maybe go to Tirerack.com or some other online retailer.

But whatever you do, get yourself some snow tires.

Dino Fudoli: Leadership

dfThis is an astonishing interview from an elected official, where he talks over the anchors, gets upset, and calls everyone who got stuck in the Snowvember storm “irresponsible”.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Dino Fudoli talks really, really fast. The next thing you’ll notice is the astonishing content of what he has to say.


But seriously, this is what you get when you elect someone to government who thinks that government is “the enemy“.

Erie County’s D-LAN and Right-Wing Stormtrolls

Logo_ErieCo_tpDuring the Snowvember / Knife storm, some municipalities made complaints about county or state aid, and there was a concerted push on local Squadrismo Radio (traffic, weather, and sedition on the tens – these guys, who think it’s cute to assault & batter former First Ladies), to criticize elected officials (all of them Democrats) for, e.g., not getting small town side streets plowed as soon as people would have liked. There was some legitimate debate over the speed with which the Thruway was closed, and how quickly people were freed from their cars, but as we discovered later on, when Cuomo allegedly criticized the National Weather Service’s forecast, there was ample warning of a historic snow event on Monday night into Tuesday.

All of a sudden, personal responsibility goes out the window when there’s a Democrat available to criticize. The WBEN Snowtrolling was amazing and unprecedented.

County Executive Poloncarz sent a warning about the storm to his disaster response team on Sunday night, and by all reasonable and impartial accounts, they performed admirably; “real leadership”, the Buffalo News called it.

But some towns have been complaining about the lack of county plows, despite the fact that they apparently had not bothered to use the decade-old computerized system to request them. In 2004, the County implemented the “DisasterLAN” or “DLAN” system for municipalities to use to request – and the county to coordinate – disaster response, including county plows.

The DLAN system is specialized for disasters and is heavily used around New York State, he said, but ignored by many Western New York highway officials.

“The problem was that only one or two people even knew about the system,” he said, despite county insistence upon its use.

Even conference calls proved inconsistent, he said, with Boston never participating in the daily planning and Orchard Park “hit and miss.”

The county executive pointed to Lake Avenue in Hamburg, a hard-hit road visited by Cuomo on Thursday. It was inserted into the DLAN system because of the volume and underlying ice pack, and therefore became a priority.

“The county knows how to use it, and 95 percent of the towns know how to use it, but not all did,” Poloncarz said. “If those people don’t utilize it, we can’t help it.”

And Lancaster Village Mayor (because we totally need a village overlaying a town government) Paul Maute “never heard of” DLAN, which is apparently everybody’s fault but his own, despite the fact that it’s been used for 10 years.

According to both Fudoli and Hoffman, halfway through the storm they became aware that in order to receive resources such as additional plows and other machinery, they had to use a Web-based system called DLan, but they had little success in doing so.

“The entire storm we were told we had equipment coming,” said Hoffman.

“We never heard of DLan until a couple of days into it,” added Maute.

According to Fudoli, requests submitted by Lancaster employees were not fulfilled, but the system repeatedly labeled them as “completed.”

So, there’s a computerized system that’s a decade old that works perfectly well, but a few highway superintendents don’t understand or use it, so it’s everybody else’s fault that, e.g., the Town of Boston didn’t get a call from the County, or the Mayor of Lancaster never heard of the county’s disaster system. How about using the DLAN or picking up your own phone? All you need to use DLAN is a connected browser. Personal responsibility gone, waiting for big government to bail them out.

Lancaster Supervisor Dino Fudoli learned that he was supposed to use DLAN “halfway through the storm”, but he was a legislator for the entity that set up and runs DLAN – Erie County?! 

That’s before we get to the concept of there being 7 feet of snow on the ground as another 2 feet dumped down just a couple of days later. You can’t just snap your fingers and get every side street in WNY plowed out overnight under those conditions.

Another meme that’s popped up has to do with how Governor Cuomo was preening for the cameras when he showed up with his entourage (read: cabinet) to stay in WNY for several days to help coordinate storm clean-up and response.

Right. Photo-op. Except that Governor Cuomo did exactly what any rational person would expect a governor to do – show up and offer state aid, money, and manpower to get the Southtowns up and running again. Had he not showed up, these same people would be whining about how Cuomo abandoned WNY again.

Cuomo is an arrogant downstater who doesn’t brook much dissent and is rude to the press and critics, plus he took some guns off the market and limited how many bullets can go in there, so he’s been likened to Hitler.

If you want to criticize the speed with which the Thruway closed, or how he came across poorly when talking about the weather service, that’s fine. But hammering the governor for showing up at a disaster area and ordering that help be given? Don’t be a dick.

Cuomo: Epic Trolling of Paladino

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo’s official Facebook page displayed this message:

Governor Andrew Cuomo - Google Chrome 2014-11-26 11.36.45


An observant local Twitter user identifies the house on the left as that belonging to Carl Paladino.

Indeed, a check of relevant records, and of Google Maps reveals that the house on the left in this image is the one belonging to Paladino – you can tell by the flags and political signs.

An epic troll by Governor Cuomo of his 2010 rival and consistent critic – using Paladino’s house to raise money for the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.



Slow clap.

Buffalo Knows Snow

Buffalo’s making world news for something other than its architecture, its culture, its startup entrepreneurs, and its Shark Girl.

This time, it’s the snow.

If you think about it, this is the first major, news-making snowfall to happen in Buffalo since things like Facebook and Twitter became ubiquitous. The October storm was in 2006, and the last time communities around here saw 6 feet or more of snow in just a day from a freak Lake Effect situation was back in December 2001. (There was a similar storm in November 2000 that messed with afternoon rush hour and left thousands stranded in short order).

I live in the Northtowns, and we got nothing – just a dusting of wet, sticky snow on Monday night. All of Tuesday was sunny, but we could see the looming band of lake effect cutting the sky to the south and west. Schools were closed because teachers couldn’t get in, and there weren’t enough subs to go around.

While Clarence saw a mere dusting, the adjoining town just south of us – Lancaster – is one of the hardest-hit communities, seeing over 5 feet of snow.

But what’s different this time as compared to past massive snowstorms is the use of social media. No longer solely reliant on radio or TV updates, people are communicating via Twitter and Facebook. Snow-free Northtown people are in awe of the walls of snow their friends in the eastern suburbs and Southtowns have – these types of pictures even made it to the front page of Reddit. Amazing photographs of the edge of the snow event, taken from the air, have gone viral.

They canceled school again Wednesday and I wanted to go into downtown to grab some work to do from home. I knew the 190 was closed from the 290 to the 90, so as I exited the 990, I opted to take the 290 towards the 33.  I forgot, however, that the Thruway is closed from Rochester to the Pennsylvania line. So, all traffic was forced to exit the 290 at Harlem Road / Sheridan Drive.

I took Harlem south to meet up with the 33. There was no snow at all until I crossed Main Street.  Then, there was a dusting.  The snow progressively intensified as I traveled further south, through the double roundabouts at Kensington, and again at the next light.  By the time I got to the T-Shirt man, it was a whiteout, and I already knew the lake effect band had hit downtown.  I thought I could do a quick grab & dash at the office, but I turned around on Harlem Road, not wanting to end up going 10 miles per hour with my hazards on in a blinding whiteout on the 33.

If you track back to the middle of the last decade, when the effort to change Buffalo’s image from a snowbound post-industrial wasteland picked up steam thanks to blogs and social media, the freak October storm of 2006 is the only thing that made any sort of news. But that storm now pales in comparison to storm events that have crippled many parts of the Northeast in the past few years, so it’s not something that outsiders link with Buffalo’s overall reputation.

We’re hyper-aware of every time Buffalo makes national news, because we’re defensive about how we’re perceived as a gray, cold, failure. No listicles this time, no Forbes survey has us peeved – now we’re in the midst of a proper snowpocalypse just 2 weeks into November, and our lake effect is all over social media and regular news.

It’ll be 60 degrees on Monday, by the way. We were wearing shorts last Tuesday in 70 degree weather.

What, if anything, will be the effect on Buffalo’s reputation? We’re seeing news all over about good samaritans with snowmobiles and snowblowers, further cementing our reputation as the city of “Good Neighbors”. The brunt of the storm hit the affected areas somewhat late in the day Monday, so traffic was not at its peak – we don’t have the mass strandings that we’ve come to expect. So, we get a few snow days, people post incredible – and often humorous – pictures of walls of snow and massive drifts, and we take it all in stride.

In all, epic snowfall like this and the way in which people are finding the light, empathy, and humor in a tough situation should serve to burnish Buffalo’s reputation as a fundamentally livable place, in spite of the snow. After all, the snow might keep you stuck where you are for a time, but it’s generally not, e.g.,  washing or blowing your house away. No epic drought, no fires, no landslides. We’re just, for the most part, sitting tight.

So, sit tight, Buffalo. Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to. Keep warm, help each other out, and marvel at what’s going on.


1. I alternated between WBEN 930-AM, the Buffalo news station, and a Torontonian station, 680 News (CFTR) Friday morning. WBEN did the list of closings, traffic & weather, news, and featured several interviews with people who work outside, commenting on what it’s like to work outside (breaking – it’s cold when it’s cold, and hot when it’s hot). 680 went through its repetitive pattern of news, weather, traffic, sports, business news, and commuter issues. There was no talk of school or business closings. Just typical big-city news. It was a fascinating comparison. 

2. Cold feet? The warmest socks I ever owned were marketed in the US as “Swiss Army socks”. They aren’t anymore, but you can buy them online from the Swiss manufacturer, Rohner. The original is CHF 28 (about $32), and shipping is a flat $10.60 for orders under $160. I am still looking for an American retailer who carries them, but they’re worth every penny, IMHO. 

3. Even with very low temperatures, somewhere in Buffalo there will be a guy walking around today in shorts and boots. 

4. I coined a new word yesterday wholly by accident – “sloppery”. It is a portmanteau of “sloppy” and “slippery” and described the super-fine powder causing people with crap tires to slide around the roads Thursday and Friday. 

5. Speaking of which, get yourself some snow tires

6. My predictions for 2014 are contained in this article for the print edition of Artvoice

7. Trina Tardone and Emily Trimper, come on down! You’re the next contestants on, How Creepily Did Dennis Gabryszak Sexually Harass You?! (That makes 6 accusers. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; but where there’s a blazing inferno, shit’s going down.)

7. Nickel City Chef 2014 tickets go on sale today. They may already be sold out.