Friday, January 26, 2007

Of snow squalls and white knuckles.

Of snow squalls and other snowy scares…

Yesterday both hubby and I had to drive to a city over an hour away for his specialist appointment. We were feeling a bit of anxiety as it had snowed through the night and looked quite icy outside. Knowing though this would be our planned agenda this day, the appointment itself too important to cancel.

What we left before heading on the journey ahead.

Before preparing for the drive, I sat at the computer to check the weather network website, typing in all the locations along the way for current snow warnings and possible delays throughout the hourly forecasted times during our journey. All appeared to be clear sailing, so off we headed at the appointed time.

As we traveled, we began to notice changes in weather patterns. Around the half way point, straight ahead before us, it appeared we were headed into visibility issues, perhaps even a dreaded snow squall. Alarmed at first, we continued straight into the eye of a small snow squall, necessitating the need to keep in the right slower lane most of the way through it, as the snow mounted and the wind began to gust, small drifts appearing along the freeway road ahead. Large semi trucks were mixed in with the flow of regular traffic, so I intentionally slowed down my pace, allowing one to pass me, then I kept behind him for the rest of the journey, following in his exact tracks and happy to be doing so.

Caution; Clouds ahead.

Whoa, unexpected snow is falling!

When arriving at our destination, vast amounts of snow seemed to suddenly fall from the sky, and within minutes, roads were white and speeds slowed to a crawl. Happily I kept a snail's pace, believe me, though the snow wasn’t packed or slippery as is typical in the west, rather nice and fluffy, very lovely to watch before me as the windshield piled up with the white stuff and the need to turn the windshiled wipers became evident.

Vast amounts of snow fell in a short time period.

Onward ho then, we arrived in the city a wee bit early, stopping for a nice hot “cuppa” something, oh - yummy yum! Nestled warm inside the coffee shop, we sipped our hot drinks and warmed our bellies, before continuing outside towards to keep our appointed time slot. Camera in hand, I snapped a few pictures, one of our “barista” who made our personalized drink requests before us.

Our barista at the coffee shop, a neat gal!

She had served us several times before, a neat gal who had many dreams for her future already planned, sharing them with us previously. My hubby is sporting a beard now, one he hasn’t been afforded to grow before in his profession of work, however with the snow falling and the wintry chill, it seemed fitting to have one at this time. And besides, I rather like it on him too!

Hubby is now sporting a beard!

Outside again, we both estimated the fallen snow to have reached proportionate heights of 6 inches at least within our half hour inside sipping our drinks. We began to marvel over the sudden changes to the weather again, watching the sky brightening, and as usual, the sun was in its full glory once out of the office.

Funny sight, all front doors a different color.
(Click to see a better view.)

Heading home after the appointment,
the sun was lovely, the sky clear!

Our journey home was most pleasant, salt trucks already zooming around also clearing most roadways, streets were clear and the sun was superb within vision. It felt like a lovely spring day, but my van thermometer read -12 degrees and getting colder.

Click the photo above to note the
thermometer reading of -12 degrees.

Approximately 25 minutes from our home, we noticed the skies darkening, with strange clouds falling low ahead of us. Turning on the weather report, the news was blaring to announce the freeway ahead was closed due to a 30-vehicle pile up, so we prepared our route home from that turnpike. Good thing for radios for sure! We had heard of severe “snow squalls” before, not personally driving in the center of them however, though the ending of this journey proved to be a most frightful and white knuckle experience to the point where we hope it never happens to us again! My photos included here hardly convey the true story, the very worst experiences didn't see the camera in either of our hands, for sure! But, you can get the idea with these...

Freeway closed ahead and still 25 minutes to our home!

Off the highway, many vehicles were attempting to travel down single lanes, with semi trucks traffic blending into the traffic, stretching out for miles ahead, and behind us. Luckily I had a large semi truck in front of me to follow, making great tracks down into the depths of snow, packing it all just right to drive upon. When the sudden gusts of ferocious wind accompanying the snow squall itself began to sway our vehicle, we wondered how strong it really was, bracing ourselves for the dreaded finale of our chosen route home. At any time, another vehicle could hit us, without visibility from blowing snow. SCARY!

Visibility getting worse.

WHITE Knuckles!!!!
Waiting too for the big snow winds
to gust again for zero visibilty!

It was very difficult to navigate the vehicle in such weather, not having the ability to see the traffic going in the opposite directions in the lane next to us, let alone able to see the red tail lights, nor most of the shape of the large truck in front of us, though I kept my white knuckles on the wheel and knew if I stopped, I could cause a huge traffic jam, or worse yet, a fatal accident I would be guilty of creating. It was so frightening for me, though my Betsy van held tight to the roadway, pulling us forward with its front wheel drive abilities. I felt confidant but had to force myself to keep calm at least three times, when the visibility was almost nothing, and I felt as though no road was even before me, let alone other vehicles. It was the worst experience of my life so far, no kidding.

EVEN whiter knuckles!

Finally at home, we noted our driveway had been gently cleared with a tractor, a neighbor’s tractor, though we never knew whose. This simple gesture was so appreciated and it allowed us to drive down to the garage door, without having the inconvenience of being stopped by the large accumulations of drifting snow piles, some up to four feet in places in the yard. Once in the warmth of our home, I felt as though I’d been transported into another world, still watching the incredible winds outside with flying snow mixed in them, having driven in glorious sunshine just a little while before entering this weather.

Ferocious winds blew our little tree in the foreground.

I felt a desperate need to unwind, knees weak, and obviously shaken up to my very core, never having experienced something such as this before, let alone drive in the eye of the storm like this itself.

Within a short while, I stood amazed, as I glanced out the window, watching larger white clouds passing by in a quick pace, and then the brightness of the sun began to appear. One would have to blink to realize this had been all experienced in all the same day, but it was the final sunset appearing at dusk, the crested moon above the beauty of color underneath, when I shook my head and then headed straight for bed!