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Winter Wind and Parking Lots

- January 11, 2019 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

I wrote a blog in March 2017 called “Thar she blows! How to drive safely under windy conditions” and wanted to elaborate on that topic a bit more. Winter wind can pose different hazards than the same wind in spring-fall. With lower temperatures, bridges and overpasses may freeze up before the road does and before you know it, you can be in a guardrail or worse yet over the side. Winds and even light snow can make for hazardous driving conditions. In this blog, I’ll focus on parking lot hazards associated with winds. Particularly, hard caps or tonneau covers on pickup trucks, and shopping carts.

Recently, I went into a big box lumber store for a purchase. A high wind advisory popped up on my phone. It’s been windy all day and I didn’t think anything of it. There were two pickup trucks parked near mine, both with hard shell bed covers. One was two spaces closer to the door than mine and the other a couple rows back but directly behind the first. I went in, made my purchase and walked back out to my vehicle.

On the truck a couple of spots over, the hard cover was now up and on the verge of being blown off. The truck cover behind me already lost the battle with the wind. It had been blown off and was now partially wedged under another vehicle’s rear tires.

Luckily, no one was injured and no damage to any vehicles that I saw. Needless to say, I was taken off guard and it got me wondering. What if the one that was blown off had struck someone? It was off a full-size pickup and probably weighed 100 pounds or close to it. And driven by a 50 mph wind would have enough force to injure a person and/or damage another vehicle.

If you have a hard cap or tonneau cover on a vehicle, make sure it is securely latched at all times. Park with your truck facing into the wind. Avoid purchases or deliveries that may require you to open the top up, as it’s kind of a double edged sword when windy. One direction may cause the cover to unexpectedly fly open and being damaged or, worse case being blown off the truck, injuring a bystander or damaging another vehicle. Park the other way and you may risk the cap slamming down on you as you place or remove items from the bed.

Shopping carts are another item. Seems like the only ones that steer straight, are the ones being driven by wind, at high speeds, across a parking lot, headed right at a vehicle.

Try and park away from the cart corrals. Watch for stray carts, customers loading or returning lightweight or large items that have the potential to become airborne, (think sheets of plywood, drywall, foam backer board, etc.).

As always, pay attention to your surroundings during adverse weather conditions. You left to go on a shopping trip…not a hospital trip!