Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This Is Insane

"Due to extremely slick roads, the county is pulling all the snow plows from the highways." blared the radio. - Silence - "Are we back, are we back?," questioned the voice on the radio as static poised the threat that they would once more go off the air, then the announcer continued, "I-90 to the east and west is closed at this time. All other roads are open." - Silence - The broadcast was lost to the storm, and we waited expectantly for further updates.

"Wonderful," I tell my husband, "the radio station can hardly stay on the air, we are without power, and the roads are too dangerous for the snow plows but the public can give them a try." We stare out the windshield of our pickup in frustration as the snow hurls past us at forty plus miles-per-hour with wind gusts to sixty that rock the truck. I catch myself shaking my head as the thoughts, 'This is insane. I can't believe this mess', repeat over and over in my mind until I conclude that, 'Only in our county would they do this.'

Emergency flashers blink all around us as we wait in the parking lot designated for the vehicles of personnel who work at one of the four coal mines near our town. Here they board buses which transport them to their respective mines. Barely audible above the howl of the wind, diesel pickups and semi's engines rattle beside us and in front viewed intermittently as the storm occasionally draws aside its white-out curtains are four mine buses, three Caterpillar machinery trucks - all waiting. - Waiting for the storm to abate, waiting for their bosses to tell them to go home, or waiting for the roads to close - I don't know which.

The stress of their journey from the next nearest town, forty miles away, is inferred as small caravans of vehicles pressed tightly together slowly enter the area. Our short trip of only a few blocks in a three-quarter-ton truck with four-wheel-drive was stressful enough. Hungrily, we searched for light posts, vehicle tracks, anything to distinguish our where-a-bouts as my husband laid over the steering wheel, and I leaned forward peering out into the darkness, blinded by the snow that encapsulated us. "Turn left," I yelled as we hit the curb once more. "No, don't turn right, we haven't past the Baptist Church yet. Keep going. Can you see that dark line. It's the fence leading down to the corner," I directed as the thunder rumbled and the lightening flashed, illuminating the heavens, giving an ominous foreboding sense to the storm.

As day approached and the heavens lightened, I couldn't figure out why we had sat here for an hour and twenty minutes waiting with my husband's mine bus idling nearby. There was no way that this storm was letting up, and if he made it to work thirty miles away, he wasn't coming home until it was over. We've been through this before. A storm that shuts down the county the end of March or April is almost a yearly event. My patience was nearing its end. I'd left our home without my medication and as the lack of it began to take effect my husband decided he had better get me home. "No, don't turn yet. You'll run into the hill," I said four times before we reached the corner. My husband gunned the truck as we bucked our way through the drifts and slid up the driveway. Our livestock, a few miles a way, were going to have to ride out the storm without food and water We couldn't reach them. The power had returned in our absence, and so as it flickered, I hurried to vacuum and dry clothes - just in case.

Three of the four, mine buses that had sat in front of us slid into the ditch on their return trip back north to the next, nearest town. Men from the coal mine thirty miles south spent four and a half hours creeping along the highway crusted in ice and drifted with snow in order to reach our community as the wind whipped the storm into a blinding fiery. The sides of the highway were littered with abandoned vehicles that had skid off or their drivers accidently mistaken the burrow pit for the road. The passengers in those vehicles piled in with others and the caravans crept on. One man spent the night in his pickup in the area where we keep our livestock and called emergency services the next morning to come pull him out of a snow drift.

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