Broken record says “How did you do in Wednesday’s storm?” “How long did it take you to get home?” “Were you around for the ice storm of 2002?” I feel like I’ve told it so many times, but perhaps you haven’t heard it so no I will tell it again.
If you exist on the internet then you have certainly seen the pictures by now.
Yes North Carolina is filled with people who have no idea how to handle their cars in clear weather, let alone a “weather event”. But I thought I would be ok.
The flakes started coming down around noon. Being in a land that rarely sees snow, I immediately snapped a pic and sent it to my family. No more than 20 minutes later, the parking lot was covered. This stuff was coming down fast and people did not like it. I have windows in my office that look out on the main road, so I could see the rats leaving the ship but not making it far before they were caught in traffic. So I waited.
“What’s the point?” I thought. “I’ll just be stuck in my car. At least here I have snacks and warmth and toothpaste. I’ll just give it a bit more time to let these silly drivers get off the road.”
But the silly drivers did not get off the road. For a very very very long time. They wrecked their cars. They stalled out in the middle of the road and couldn’t get started again. They swerved to miss who knows what and started a 14 car pileup blocking all lanes of traffic from shoulder to shoulder. But after a few hours, the road out front looked clear so I decided to give it a whirl. My commute does not include freeways or highways or interstates so I thought I would be safe. I didn’t think it would be my typical 20 minute commute, but I was also fairly certain it wouldn’t be the 14 hour horror stories I had heard about “The Great Ice Storm of 2002”.
I made a choice. I’ll never know if it was the right one, but I made a choice. I saw things one only sees in movies about the end of the world. It could have been a poster from The Day After Tomorrow meets Independence Day. And it all could have been avoided if people were even the least bit courteous or massively less ignorant about how vehicles work.
One guy had stopped his car in the middle of the road, exited the vehicle, and walked a block up the street to buy a pizza leaving the rest of us to pile up behind his double flashers. And speaking of double flashers, it took forever to make a right hand turn because one idiot lead the rest of the flock to line up behind a truck with double flashers on AND NO ONE IN IT! The guys in the truck had gotten out to help some other poor person get traction so he could get out of the ditch and on his merry way but we were all patiently waiting our turn to make a right turn behind a car that was literally not going to move. Suddenly all concept of stop lights went out the window. It is critically important that I do not let this person in because they might make it to their house before I do. While there were some people who were genuinely trying to be helpful, pushing and pulling vehicles back onto the road, passing out snacks and shots of whiskey to those parked in their cars, the majority of Raleigh/Durham was full of jerks thinking about number 1 and causing more trouble for themselves and everyone else than they realized.
And let’s talk about basic physics shall we? An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an alternate force. So, we all could have made it up the icy hill using our momentum if you hadn’t stopped in the middle to do whatever asinine thing it was you had to do RIGHT THEN. If you slam on the breaks in icy conditions, you will lose control of the car as soon as you hit that ice (because you will hit it you dingus. It takes further than 2 feet to stop) causing yet another accident we have to wait behind. And I drive a stick which I wish sometimes was in big flashing lights somewhere. Because that makes a difference when trying to start while on an incline. And it makes a difference when you keep slamming your breaks on the way up the hill because the 5 miles an hour you get to in your automatic is a little too fast for you. (I should mention that these hills are nothing like where my parents grew up, they would probably barely register, but it is enough in slick road conditions.) And also, just because you can’t see the lines on the road doesn’t mean you don’t know where they are. Driving does not get to become a free for all. We are not actually meant to use our vehicles as sleds. They can still kill people.
And then I was almost there. I had hit a stride where no on ramps were causing backups and no stupid drivers had fishtailed into some other stupid driver. I saw break lights tapping up ahead. I could have pulled into WalMart and walked, I do it all the time. I was that close. But I didn’t realize what was ahead.
Both lanes were blocked. Not because of an accident. But because two cars were abandoned in the middle of the road. Just left there. ½ a mile from my house and I was stuck dead in the water for 20 minutes. If I could have shuffled forward even 20 feet, I could have made a U-turn and parked at WalMart. But we never even scooted. I was stuck, car off stuck, for 20 minutes.
Of the people I’ve talked to, my story is the best. Well, my husband made it home in an hour and ½. But two of my co-workerswere out there for 2 hours and never made it off the main road. They turned around to wait it out at the office and try again later and even the second time around took them 3 & 4 hours. Another was stuck for over 6 hours. 2 lab techs ended up staying the night. Police officers stopped responding to accident calls unless there was a serious injury. Needless to say, I stayed in the next day.