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Fear of Fog

At a recent gathering attened by KSMU's Mike Smith, the topic of driving in fog came up for discussion. Everyone taking part had a clear and precise memory of the time they each had to deal with the fear of driving through fog. It is from that discussion that Mike Smith files this story.

Fog'to some, it brings forth feelings of fear and fascination, but to motorists, fewer things are as frightening as driving through a thick heavy fog. National Weather Service meteorologist Wes Browning says there are 2 types of fog here in the Ozarks: Radiation fog, and Advection fog. He says fog can form at any time of the year, but is most common in the colder months when ground temperatures have dropped. Radiation fog can form vertically on or near lakes or river valleys like steam coming off water near boiling temperature in a kettle. Advection fog moves horizontally in relation to the ground.

Dan Bracker, with the Missouri State Highway Patrol says driving in fog can be compared to driving with a blindfold on.

He says the Missouri State Highway Patrol recommends motorists get off the highways when heavy fog is present. When Bracker says get off the highway, he doesn't mean to the shoulder. He advises drivers to find a parking lot or a driveway to wait out the fog.

Tom Bonebrake, of Springfield , says he should've pulled off the road on a trip through the fog in the winter of 1987 when he traveled from Poplar Bluff to Little Rock Arkansas . On that trip, which normally takes 3 hours, he spent 11 hours on the road, many of which were following the one red tail light of a flatbed truck. He says to this day, he's thankful for that tail light guiding him on his journey.

Wes Browning of the National Weather Service says the fog Tom Bonebrake drove through was probably a type of radiation fog called Stratus Build Down. It is basically a cloud that drops down to higher elevations like roads on ridge tops that are common in Northwest Arkansas .

It was in the Northwest Arkansas ridge tops where Tim Griese of Springfield found himself in a fog in the spring of 1986. He and a friend were traveling to game 8 of the World Series between the St. Louis cardinals and the Kansas City Royals.

'..Wait a minute'.game 8? "Yes, game 8" , Griese says. "It was the first time the two teams met after the Royals defeated the Cardinals in the fall of 85. It was an exhibition game at Little Rock , and on a whim, my friend and I decided to drive there, but on the way, in the hills of Northwest Arkansas we ran into the thickest fog I had seen in a long time. It was stressful to be sure, my knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel. But even though it was a scary time, it was also sort of a thrill too."

Reporting for KSMU News, I'm Mike Smith.