Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Whiteout

When I was eleven years old, my mom and I were stranded in a blizzard with less than a quarter of a tank of gas in the car.

Luckily, we were stranded within the city limits of Norfolk.

Even more luckily, my brother-in-law (now former) somehow saw through the white-out conditions, picked us up in his four-wheel drive and took us to his house.

It's an experience I never forgot.

Because of what happened then, I have had a tendency to overreact when bad weather is forecast.

Living in Nebraska, I have long expected another storm with blinding, white-out conditions to occur again.

Yesterday, it happened.

This was the view from my windshield yesterday.



Well, not really. If you want to see a real picture of what it looked like outside yesterday visit the Norfolk Daily News Web site. (But I can tell you, it's not much different than what I posted.)

During the noon hour, the production manager at the newspaper came into the breakroom and said whiteout conditions had cancelled delivery of the paper outside Norfolk. (This just doesn't happen.)

A co-worker, who lives in the same bedroom community where I live, said he would call when he made it home to let me know how the roads were. Seventeen miles and one hour later, he told me I could make it, but it wasn't pretty.

Knowing my husband was out of town and my children were at school with nowhere to go, I decided to try it. But I should have known when I couldn't see the pharmacy across the street from the convenience store where I stopped to fill the van with gas that I shouldn't have ventured out onto the highway.

But I did.

Two miles outside of town, I heard the sound of my own voice praying, "Lord, be my eyes through this storm. Help me make it to safety."

The wind let up long enough for me to see the entrance to a large truck stop about four miles outside of town. Stranded, I hung out there with burly truck drivers who were too afraid (or too smart) to travel any farther through the storm.

Via my cell phone (aka my lifeline) I called my mom to let her know I was safe. (She then told me I shouldn't sit in my vehicle with it running because I'd run out of gas. Nevermind the fact that I was at a gas station. But she's my mom and I know she worries.) I called my husband to see where he was. I called my oldest daughter to tell her DO NOT WALK HOME! I called my co-workers to tell them not to leave because they wouldn't make it any farther than I did.

Inch by agonizing inch, my husband and the construction crew with which he works made it as far as the gas station where I had been waiting. I climbed into the last vacant spot in my husband's boss' four-wheel drive king cab, and we headed home through the whiteout.

But two miles down the road we encountered a roadblock of firetrucks and state patrolmen who refused to let us travel any farther.

"It's too dangerous," they said.

Caleb, my husband's fearless boss, had other ideas though. In his giant four-wheel drive truck, we headed for the gravel. (Hey, I was just along for the ride.) Now, if you've ever been to the rolling plains of Northeast Nebraska, you know that -- while they are beautiful -- there are some steep drop-offs along the edges of certain gravel roads.

The gravel roads in Pierce County are no exception.

Coupling this knowledge with the fact that there were times when we couldn't see the front of the truck made this already-tense reporter even more edgy. In fact, by the time we pulled into town 20 minutes later, my legs felt like spaghetti and I'd prayed so many Hail Mary's, purgatory is no longer an issue for me. :-)

But all is well that ends well.

Even though it took almost three hours to get home, I made it back to my children before sundown.

This morning's report by the state patrol said that while hundreds of cars had been abandoned on the highways during the storm, no one was seriously injured here.

They say if you don't like the weather in Nebraska, then you should wait five minutes because it will change.

Yeah, I'm ready for it to change back to 70 and sunny.

6 comments:

bloggingexperiments said...

Wow, Kat! I found myself praying for you just reading this post. Glad you made it home and that all were safe. Makes me not hate the Santa Ana winds and 70 plus weather we are having...quite as much. Blech, winds!

Sex Mahoney for President said...

There's nothing more fun than getting lost in the snow. I don't know why people are so afraid of freezing to death.

Sex Mahoney for President

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Hey! I'm so relieved that you made it through this travel adventure. I've driven in only one true whiteout, and it was not a pretty experience.

I'm impressed by your husband's boss and his rugged independence. :-)

Crimogenic said...

Kat, my heart was racing when I was reading your experience. I'm so happy it ended well. I live in Chicago and know a little about whiteouts, but I don't drive and couldn't imagine being stranded out in a snow storm. It doesn't help that I hate the winter and all.

gzusfreek said...

ooo - what an experience. Glad you are safe! It's 100% visibility here in Phoenix, if you want to visit hee hee. . .I grew up in Colorado and had some scary things happen. . .thanks for sharing!

Gwen Stewart said...

Wow, Kat...and I thought it was bad here in Michigan. I drove in something like that once, in western Michigan many years ago. Every surrounding school district was called off for ice and snow, except for the one at which I taught. I'll admit this: I cried the entire drive in to school that morning. And prayed.

I made it to school. A bus went in a ditch (thank God, no children were hurt). By nine-thirty, the power went out, the buses came, and all the children were sent back home.

Think the parents were happy with the superintendant THAT day? Um...no. No they were not.

Thank God you're safe and sound!