Yesterday (Friday) we wanted to go down to see our niece graduate in Norfolk and as I was getting together with several friends the next day, Gregg said it would be no problem to drive down just for the day. We also wanted to take our Christmas gifts down. We left the house at nine in the morning - to miss most of rush hour traffic - and arrived before 1.00 p.m.
We had a lovely afternoon with the family, and were happy to see old family friends who came over to see us. Around five we rolled ourselves into the van and went over to our nephew and his wife who gave us a lovely buffet. Their house was extremely pretty dressed up for Christmas and I could kick myself that I didn't take any pictures, but we were on a tight schedule and I didn't want to be a pain delaying everyone by bringing the camera out.
Shortly afterwards we went over to Old Dominion University where the event was taking place. We watched our niece receive her diploma. Well done Megan, we're very proud of you. All your hard work paid off and now the new adventure begins. When the ceremony was over we said our goodbyes. It was sleeting a little by that time.
We left at ten p.m. and figured we would get home around 1.00 in the morning. Heck, we didn't reach our driveway until almost 7.00 a.m. From Williamsburg we were only able to drive 25 miles an hour all the way home because by then it had started snowing hard. On reflection we said maybe we should have just gotten a hotel in Virginia Beach - foresight is a wonderful thing - but we didn't think it was going to be as bad as it got last night. We just don't get these kind of storms.
If the weather got too bad we were going to pull into a hotel and it wasn't long before we found ourselves driving in a blizzard. Time to start looking for hotel signs but you have to have a passable exit ramp to get to those hotels, and as we drove by them, one after the other they were either blocked off by police or by vehicles who were stuck in the snow and with a domino effect all those who had tried to follow soon found they were in the same predicament, not going anywhere unless a tow truck came and rescued them.
As we traveled north at one point we looked at the traffic on the other side of the freeway going south. We passed a 40 mile traffic jam, no exaggeration and those people were going nowhere. On a wing and a prayer we plodded on and wondered how on earth we were ever going to reach home.
We were very surprised that we didn't see one snowplow or salt truck the whole way until we got off the Dumfries exit (an hour away from home). From there on the condition of the roads was a whole lot better than what we had had to deal with up to then. We blessed each and every one of those guys. They earned their money and much more last night.
One thing we were surprised at is that in our middle of the night drive there was an amazing amount of traffic. It might as well have been day time. I suppose everyone decided to try to get home before the storm hit. We drove by cars who had passed us at a high rate of speed earlier only to land themselves in a ditch. One man unfortunately had hit another car and we saw several accidents on route. We literally must have seen 30 cars in a ditch. You don't notice all the drops off the roads under normal conditions but we were very much aware of them now and some of those drops looked deep and dark. Big old semi's and many cars who overtook us were driving much too fast to be safe and we were constantly worried that they were going to lose traction and hit us. There were several close calls, not with us but with others.
We were impressed by one big truck who was going ever so slowly and we not out of choice drove several miles next to it before leaving him behind. It was a flat bed with tarpaulin on whatever he was carrying which was stacked pretty high. Eventually I looked side-ways at it, never really liking the idea of traveling next to any large truck with only a white line between us, but sometimes you have no choice as was the case right then. I saw on the side of the truck one of those diamond-shaped warning signs that made my eyes open a little wider and I may have let out a bit of a gasp as Gregg asked me what was the matter. My nerves were already a bit rattled after driving in those conditions. I pointed to the truck and told him about the sign. It said "Explosives"! Yes, I was very glad we left it behind and I wonder whether it was actually carrying explosives - maybe not - but if it was, what on earth was it doing driving in this weather and in all this heavy traffic.
We followed our own little convoy never getting above 25 mph. It was much better following the back lights of a car. Those rumble strips built into the edge of the road kept us on track if we strayed too far to the right. You never knew which lane you were in as the lines were totally covered. Several times even at that low speed we felt the tires sliding. The blades on the windshield wipers gathered big clumps of ice, and they were causing blind spots on the front window. Thankfully only fleetingly as all Gregg had to do was speed up the wipers and those clumps went flying but what a racket. We passed one car on the side of the road and its driver had obviously had the same problem as we could see the man trying to free up the blades on his wipers, and felt fortunate that we didn't have to do that ourselves, because the traffic was still so heavy it would have been hard to get back on the road.
Half way home we found ourselves in downtown Richmond. The road we normally take to bypass the city was one of those closed off and blocked by police. We passed hotels where there were dozens of cars out front with people waiting, trying to get in for the night. This was around three in the morning. I don't think we would have gotten a room if we had tried and by that time Gregg was feeling confident enough that we could get home, only taking roads back to the freeway that looked passable.
Finally we were in our neighborhood and not long afterwards managed to swing into our driveway. There was no way we could make it up the incline to get into the garage, so we left the car at the bottom. Our house was a welcome sight and we were very relieved we had made it home.
As I got out of the car Gregg said, "Don't forget to walk at an angle". Our home is on a bit of an incline and in bad weather getting up there can be treacherous. I have learned this by experience over the 19 years we have lived here. Our driveway has met my derrière many times, and even my face on a couple of occasions. So here I was again, I immediately fell and landed on all fours with my face kissing the snow, fortunately a very soft snow. Gregg said, "You've got to walk at an angle" and I told him ever so sweetly that I was doing my best but my first step sent me sliding.
Whether it was slight hysteria or just for the joy of being home, I couldn't help but laugh at myself. I was so happy to see our house and I would have crawled up the driveway on my hands and knees if I had to. I came in totally covered and brushing the icy powder off with my hands and stomping my feet, I did my own version of Shirley Valentine. I said, "Hello house. How are you house? I am SO glad to see you house!" We went to bed as the dawn was breaking but first I told Gregg that he had been amazing doing all that driving today, as I know there was no way I would have wanted to do it.
I am sure people in the northern parts of the US are used to what we are experiencing, and other countries like Canada and Norway are well geared up for this kind of weather. Because this happens so rarely it takes us all by surprise. It is pretty but no way do I want to do any more driving until everywhere is clear again, and I think it could be a while.
All the emergency crews out there from the police to those people driving those much needed snow plows and salt trucks, don't know what we would do without you. And as a man on the news said, "Who are these people who are getting on the roads in the first place?" Well, people like us of course! Oh dear. Well, we're very happy to be home!
The get-together with my friends was cancelled. What a surprise! I called them to let them know what kind of journey we had had. None of us will be able to get out of our neighborhoods for a while. I keep hearing on the news people being interviewed and saying that they can't ever remember a storm like this in all the years they have lived here.
These photos were taken earlier today when I quickly stuck my nose out the back door and also shot through the window out front. Later on Gregg had to go down to the car to get a few needed items. The snow went above his knees. This afternoon he said, "Let's go for a walk." I think he was joking but just in case my answer was "Let's not!" Maybe tomorrow. Looks like we're going to have a White Christmas this year.
Stay safe and warm everyone.