December 19, 2009

Holy shit

Last night was probably the worst night of my entire life. I was driving south to my parents' house with my sister and my cat, and we got caught in the Virginia snowstorm.

We thought we left early enough to miss most of the snow, especially since when we read the forecast it was only predicting 2-4 inches overnight (we got 12). But when we hit I-95 south, the entire interstate was backed up because of the snow much further south. So we were stuck on the interstate, and the snow kept getting worse.

I drove through heavy snow for 6 hours, driving between 5 and 15 miles per hour. I never drive in snow, and I was terrified. I have a small car (without snow tires), and I lost control of the car several times. The breaks would fail, or the steering, or both, and I had to keep us on the road.

We did not see a single plow all night -- for six hours, nobody salted or plowed that stretch of I-95. It was incredibly dangerous, and we were one wrong move or bad patch away from a catastrophe. We wanted to get off the interstate and find a hotel, but it wasn't an option. The exits were backed up for miles, a long line of cars that wasn't moving, probably because several of the cars were stuck.

I kept driving 5-15 mph, until we finally reached the exit ramp by my parents' house around midnight. Then the car got stuck in the middle of the ramp. We shoveled around the tires, but it was hopeless. The snow was at least 8 inches deep. We realized we would have to abandon the car.

My sister took her cello, and I carried my cat. We left everything else behind. We walked through the snowstorm until we reached a road that had been plowed. My father met us there in the CRV and picked us up.

We are all fine, including the cat -- but it's 24 hours later, and I still feel traumatized. Driving in that storm, it was pure adrenaline. I hadn't eaten since lunch, and I was exhausted from two days of driving. Every time I lost control of the car, I felt sick with fear, but I stayed focused and held it together -- for SIX. HOURS. When we finally got to the house, I was just shaking and crying. I hardly slept last night.

As bad as it was for us, it was worse for the hundreds of people who spent the night stranded on the side of the interstate. I was shocked by the utter lack of a response for those six hours -- no plows, no salt, no police. It was like a state of nature, with everyone driving at different speeds, no visible lines on the road, and cars stopped (stuck) all over the place. VDOT recently had budget cuts and layoffs -- they were totally unprepared for this. Emergency responders worked hard all night, but there weren't enough of them.

Anyway, we are safe and it's over. For now I'm just resting at my parents' house, trying to recover. I hope that those of you who were affected by the storm are safe, and that your holiday travel is nothing like this.


  • Ugh, that's so awful!! I'm sorry you had to go through that, and I'm really glad everyone is OK!

    By Blogger Elliot H., at 12/20/09, 3:17 AM  

  • I can empathize -- I live in a region where driving in the winter can be very difficult and dangerous. I'm just thankful you're all safe.

    By Blogger jo(e), at 12/20/09, 10:21 AM  

  • So sorry. Glad you're all safe and sound.

    By Blogger Psych Post Doc, at 12/20/09, 12:55 PM  

  • I'm so sorry you had this horrible experience! I'm glad you, your sister and your cat were all ok in the end. And the cello too, of course! :p

    I hope you manage to have a really good holiday despite this, and that the trip home isn't in any way similar.

    By Blogger Mamabeek, at 12/22/09, 11:26 PM  

  • Thanks for the sympathy everyone. :) I'm doing much better now that it's over.

    By Blogger Di Di, at 12/24/09, 1:45 AM  

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