I have not seen much weather since moving to Illinois from Buffalo in 1996, but last week, I had a little scare. On Wednesday night (December 19) we were hearing tell of a 2-4" snow fall coming in Thursday afternoon. Thursday was the last student day at my school, and the last day of finals. They rearranged the schedule so that all finals were taken first and second block of the day, and a 1:45 early dismissal was announced. No problem, I thought, I lived in Buffalo 7 years and survived a few weather incidents.
I drove to work Thursday morning in a light rain, pretty tame. The day was really busy and I wasn't looking outside to see when it started but sometime in midmorning an announcement was made we would now be dismissing students at 12:45 and staff could leave 10 minutes after that. Maybe about noon I looked out and it was snowing, still no big deal... At 12:45 Pat called me from Macomb to ask how things were in Galesburg because they were pretty bad in Macomb. Honestly, that shook me up when Pat said I should get out of town. I split and got just ahead of the school busses. Even then it must have taken 10 minutes to get up to the corner of Henderson St. (3 blocks). On Henderson, the traffic was really slow and roads snow packed already, and slick. I finally got to the entrance ramp to highway 34 and I was moving at about 40 miles per hour, though there were white outs and it was scaring me somewhat. Also, my windows were full of slushy snow and it was overall very hard to see. I kept the radio on as it was better company than my own thoughts. I was about 2-3 miles down the road, and without warning there's a truck jackknifed about 1000 feet (?)ahead of me and blocking the road. I could see another truck and cars past that spun out and off the road. Luckily I was just at the last exit back into Galesburg (Main St.) so all traffic was exiting.
Time for a quick decision: re-enter the freeway, or pull into town and spend the night. Into my decision went the following:
I might make it to the next town, where I had a feeling I would be stuck in a motel, however, the visibility was terrible, I am not fond of white outs, and my windows were not clear.
I have a friend in Galesburg who has offered me respite anytime I need it, but she would be coming from her job the way I was going.
I had less than a quarter tank of gas, not enough to keep me warm all night which I considered a distinct possibility.
I had work the next day.
I called Pat with all these things running through my head, and he agreed with my assessment to just stay put.
I pulled off the freeway and back around to the first motel I saw. At that point, the driving was just getting worse. I called my friend from the parking lot (in case I had to secure a room) and she was on the road and said it was horrible, but I could stay there whether she made it or not> After buying some pajamas at Target, I proceeded across town and pulled into McDonalds near her house. I had now been mucking around for about an hour. The snow was piling up and people were taking shelter, there was slipping and sliding everywhere. Very dangerous even in town.
Val got home around 2:00 and I brought her and her son some food, and we had a whole afternoon and evening ahead. It seemed really weird. Normally, if I stay there it's 5:00 or so when I get there. She asked if I like to sew and I said "not really" but she showed me a pajama pants project she was working on for Christmas presents. I sewed on the cute puppy dog buttons while she ran the machine. We watched a really sappy made for TV movie, which I kept making sarcastic remarks about, but I think she really thought it was good, and it did keep my interest. After dinner and newspaper reading, I went to bed.
Got to work a little late, in my same clothes. I was told at noon that the road home was still closed, but I didn't believe it and left shortly after lunch. I counted 7 cars still off the road on highway 34 and 35 cars off the road on 67. Apparently, on that second stretch there was a pile up that caused people to indeed spend the night in their cars or makeshift shelters, who were not lucky enough to get rescued by the state police.
So, I have to say my judgment was good, and thank goodness for my generous friend who put me up for the night. It was quite an adventure!
And Dad, you do have exclusive permission to edit and print this in the Family News, as you see fit.