Friday, January 28, 2011

Gregg's long drive home......

Losing electricity for such a long time made me realize how totally unprepared we are for things like this. I used to be very organized and had everything on hand; spare drinking water, flashlights, one of those camping stoves, etc., etc. This time it took me a while to put my hands on a flashlight that actually worked. It's one of those large heavy ones, a big old clunker, that you could use as a defensive weapon if you had to. I never put it on a top shelf in case it dropped on someone's head when they opened a closet. Those found in the kitchen drawers, in every single blessed one, the batteries had either been taken out to put into something else or had run out a long time ago, never to be replaced. And yes I kicked myself here. I used to keep a flashlight in my purse, a tiny one, but the thing gave up on me and I never replaced that either. I have a small camping lamp, the kind you can hang on a hook in a tent, but don't ask me where that disappeared to. Probably got thrown in a box somewhere in one of my cleaning frenzies. I have those occasionally, usually when we are expecting company, and these things mysteriously disappear. Our favorite phrase around here when we can't find something is "It must be in a box somewhere." which means there is no hope in you-know where of finding it when you need it. There's even a flashlight on my phone but that doesn't work if you don't remember to charge the thing. I remembered okay. As I normally do I put it on charge at night but just as I plugged it in, that was when the electricity decided to go out. So to family and friends out there, I hope you are better organized than I am and have your flashlights loaded up and ready to go.

Now, saying all this I got off lucky compared to the journey home that Gregg and many others had to deal with. The snow started falling at about four in the afternoon. He left work at 4.30 p.m. and didn't arrive home until 1.45 a.m., a journey of nine hours and one that would normally have taken maybe 30 minutes, an hour in rush-hour at the most. It is a distance of about 13 miles.

You may have heard about it in the news. We are blessed with a ton of traffic around here and rush-hour can be pretty bad at the best of times, at the worst a positive nightmare. There were so many vehicles on the roads that the snowplows couldn't get through to plow or lay down the salt. I read that the new technology in the metro buses didn't help because they are designed to shut the engine off when the bus starts sliding. People were abandoning their cars in the middle of the freeway either getting stuck or finally running out of gas. Gregg passed dozens of them. I also heard that a tree fell on a truck and while the firefighters were cutting the poor man out, more trees were falling around them. There were good Samaritans everywhere and a lot of people helped where they could, giving rides to those they found walking on the freeway with the snow still falling.

Gregg had his cell phone and called me on the hour. At one point he decided to get off the road and spent two hours in McDonalds. The place was packed with 50 people in line. His aim was to wait for the traffic to die down and after chatting to three other customers they all decided to get back to it at around at 9.30 p.m. Nothing had changed, in fact things had gotten a lot worse. His battery on the cell was running low and after one last call at around midnight, he made the last part of the journey home.

All night I saw cars slowly trickling into the neighborhood and this was still going on after midnight. I kept hoping that one of those cars would be Gregg. I saw another set of headlights making the turn off the main road and watched it get stuck as the wheels started to spin in the snow and ice. My first thought was poor guy, getting so close to home and getting stuck within looking distance of his own front door. My second thought was I wonder if that's Gregg. By this time it was 1.15 in the morning.

I watched for a few minutes, saw a darkened figure get out and under the street light I recognized someone familiar. It was Gregg. He eventually managed to get around the corner but got stuck at an angle across the road right in front of our house. He got the snow shovel out and I went down to see if I could help. I even took my exercise mat down thinking he could put it under the wheels, but he told me it was so flimsy that it would probably get stuck around the tire. I was so glad to see Gregg that I had thrown a coat over my pj's, and had a pair of pretty flimsy shoes on and had rushed out of the house without thinking too much about it. I didn't even feel the snow overflowing into my mules and it was bitingly cold. After about 15 minutes he was able to park next to the curb. Just as we walked through the door the electricity went out again. It had returned after being off for about three hours that evening and came on half an hour before, though the lights had been fluttering. It stayed off until around 2.30 p.m. the following day. Neither of us cared, Gregg was just glad to be back under his own roof after that journey and I was glad to see him, as I was beginning to think he wouldn't be able to get home that night. I know some had to sleep in their cars. We just piled more blankets onto the bed and gave a thought to all those homeless folks in DC and elsewhere, hoping that they had gotten some warm shelter for the night. It would be a terrible night to be outdoors.

This was a wet heavy snow, great for making snowmen but not so great when you are driving home, not so great because the tree limbs fall down and break the power lines, and God forbid those trees can fall. So to you all out there stay safe on those roads okay, and remember to check those flashlights every now and again? When I have a quiet day I am going to clear out one of our cupboards and stock it with emergency supplies. We may not have another storm for a long time and that's the problem. When we do get one it kind of takes you by surprise.

The next day the sun was shining and there were pretty blue skies. Across the street we noticed that our neighbor's tree had lost some of it's branches and were laying on the ground.

These photos were taken looking out the back of our house.

The trees were covered with clumps of snow that had turned into ice.

But I will leave you with the flowers I bought, two weeks ago and still looking pretty good.

Now where are those flashlights?


  1. What a harrowing experience, and I'm so glad Gregg made it home safely, even though it was the early hours of the morning.
    I'm the same with the flashlights, or the English call them 'torches', have them all over the house, tucked away in drawers and cupboards, but which, I never know, and when I eventually seek them out, no batteries.
    You've given me a wake-up call, I must put together an emergency kit, at my fingertips, and the first thing that goes into it, will be frying pans, candles, matches, and tea bags :)
    Hope it all goea away as quicly as it came !

  2. What an awful time for your husband.
    I have been more aware of having working flashlights since the last time we lost power and couldn't find one that worked.
    Take care and keep warm.
    ☼ Sunny

  3. Two weeks ago? That's amazing the flowers still look so wonderful!

    Your description of the snow and cold troubles was just incredible, Denise. I do well remember those days in Illinois, but Art never got stuck for NINE hours. Wow! Poor Gregg. I'm so glad he returned safely. We have been hearing and seeing the news lately about all the winter blues. I sure hope this is it for the season. The big stuff, I mean... I know you'll have some snow and cold yet until spring. I just hope it's not so bad. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

  4. So, glad that Gregg is safe. You must have been so worried.
    Take care, keep warm.
    Jane x

  5. Your poor husband. So glad he is now safe. Your pictures tell it all.

  6. This all sounds pretty familiar. thsi is exactly what happened in Seattel just before Thanksgiving, With people stranded everywhere, and cars and busses sliding fown hills and crashing and blocking streets.
    I'm glad Gregg made it home finally. I did see and hear the reports on the national news.

  7. I have a small generator, they come in handy that once every 3 years you need them.I have seen how you are gotting pounded. It was 38 and sunny here, melting some of the snow.

  8. I can imagine your joy when your husband finally showed up. I would have felt the same way. Thanks for the reminder to check our flashlights and battery supply regularly. We always have a case of bottled water, but since we are guzzlers, maybe we should buy 2 cases from Costco!!!

  9. This was such an interesting post, with a bit of suspense. Hope you have electricity now. I think we all tend to not stock up for those days of need. We always borrow batteries from our flashlights and other things that take batteries. Enjoyed your pictures and your description of your ordeal, nice. Thank you for coming by, have a nice weekend.

  10. How awful! You would think they would bury all the power lines, so this type of thing (snow, ice, tornadoes, high winds etc) wouldn't take our power out so often! The power companies have known the problem for decades! Keeping batteries for flashlights is half the problem, the other half is finding the actual flashlights! Mine seem to have feet and run at the first sign of a brown out.

    Harrowing for you, I'm sure and your poor Gregg! I'm glad he and his car made it in once piece!

  11. Wow, Gregg had quite an adventure. I'm so glad he made it home safe and sound after the long, nerve-wracking drive.
    Good reminder to check the flashlights. I'm bad about letting the batteries go out. We all need to be ready. You never know when a bad storm or other emergency might come along.

  12. You have made a good point. One should always be ready for loss of electricity, in the winter because of heavy snow or freezing rain, and in the summer because of thunderstorms. Glad your husband made it home safe and sound.

  13. Perhaps Gregg could work from home for a while? It was a worrying time for you both. I hope that's the last of it for you.

  14. Sorry to hear he was stuck in that mess, I feel for him!

  15. Gregg sort of had an experience similar to last year's winter storm. I remember it took you a long, long time to get home from Virginia Beach during a winter storm. You've had two bad winters in a row. I hope that rest of the winter is kinder to you!