I lived one of my worst nightmares on Monday night: being stuck on the interstate in bad weather with nowhere to go and a lot of trucks on the road. I was up at my Dad’s house Sunday and Monday to have a permanent crown put on my tooth. We knew they were calling for bad weather to start moving in Monday morning, but I had no idea how bad it was going to get…..
I left my Dad’s house around Noon for what’s usually about a 4 hour and 15 minute trip home. It ended up taking a little over 8 hours. It started snowing about 40 minutes into my trip and the road conditions continued to get worse the further south I got. It was slow going at times, but I didn’t hit my first major traffic slow down until about 3 hours into my trip.
From there on, I would alternate between crawling and being stopped still. The main hold up was mostly disabled vehicles. By that I mean vehicles that were stuck in the snow, not broken down vehicles. Unfortunately, once people got stuck they were just in the way and often they were stuck on the only drivable part of the road as well. There were plenty of wrecks, though. Very few were just people sliding off of the road. I’d say about 90% of them were multi-vehicle wrecks involving cars and tractor trailers. This was a common sight along the way:
Sometimes we would have to sit for a long time for the road to clear (I think I sat still for nearly 90 minutes at one point), and other times we would serpentine through. It’s really eerie to weave through wrecks involving three tractor trailers and six cars that are all now stuck on either side of the road. Most of the cars really didn’t fare well, either.
As I got closer to home, the road conditions continued to deteriorate (see above picture). I hit a major delay right after I missed my last chance to get off of the interstate for the next 10 miles (exit 128). This particular section of 81 (the section from exit 128 to exit 118, for those who are familiar) has huge, curved hills. We kept getting stopped on the hills and then cars and trucks wouldn’t be able to start again. A lot of the trucks would actually end up sliding backwards and sideways. It was so scary and unnerving, and by 6 hours into my trip I had absolutely had enough. I actually cried a few times during this stretch.
I made arrangements to meet Barry at the Virginia Tech exit (20 miles north of my usual exit), so that he could take me home in his truck. I got there about 7 hours after leaving my Dad’s house, and I was so relieved to see Barry. At that point my nerves were completely fried. Just after I made it there, they closed the interstate.
We left my car at a gas station, with permission, and Barry drove me the rest of the way home. He offered to drive my car for me and I could drive the truck, which has 4 wheel drive, but I was just so done.
I am so grateful for Barry’s encouragement and advice, and for my Dad teaching me how to drive in this type of weather. I spoke with both of them on the phone numerous times during my trip (with a hands free device), and they probably don’t realize how many times they “talked me off the ledge,” so to speak. I’m also thankful that my car (a Mazda 3, which has no 4 wheel drive) can be switched from automatic to manual. Being able to shift up to second gear is the only thing that allowed me to continue driving after being stopped on those big hills on the interstate.
All in all, we got about 9 inches of snow. It’s going to take me a long time to recover from that experience. I’ll still drive on I-81, no problem, but never again in the snow like that. I should have stayed at my dad’s house, but like I said who knew it was going to get that bad. Hindsight is 20/20. Oh and we went and retrieved Hey Car, as I call her, this morning around 5 AM. She’s home safe now.
What are the worst road conditions you’ve experienced on the highway? I’ve been on I-81 in the snow before, but nothing like that.