Alright. This is the last thing I wanted to see on our last leg of a 14 hour-long journey. Granted, we we’re traveling over Thanksgiving weekend from Denver to Dallas, so we ran a bit of a risk, but Google maps simply said there was a “30 % chance of weather” in the Oklahoma/Texas border area. Did we know what Google meant when it showed a yellow blob representing “Weather”?
No, we did not. A’tall.
Well now. We went from cold (and I mean COLD) breezy weather in Denver, to windy and freezing gusts in Hays, Kansas. Holding steady to Salina, Kansas. That was our half way point, and I thought we had it down pretty well. A lot of stops for gas, snacks, and Subway sandwiches (The smell of Grandpa’s extra onions still makes me shudder) got us to Oklahoma City.
Then it got real. I mean really bizarre. Because, look… I have only ever heard of ice storms, and my thinking was, “Boo Hoo. What’s the big deal? I live in Denver, and we Coloradans get snow and blizzard conditions a lot. We get icy roads, and we deal with it just fine! These Southerners are lightweights!”
Those were my thoughts and my attitude as we drove into North Oklahoma City. We weren’t expecting to drive into anything specific, you remember, but ice storm was way down on my list of worries.
Until, we stopped at a rest stop. The first thing I noticed was car after car pulling in from the direction we were going. They looked like they were wrapped in cellophane, from a distance. As they came closer, I saw strange little ice daggers slanting off the mirrors, the door handles, the radio antenna, and even the tire wells. All were slick and shiny-looking.
This did not look good.
I got out of my car and walked over to where a man was cracking open his truck. The ice crackled and fell off from only around the door. The rest just stayed put. I just had to know. I mean, part of me knew that if there was an overwhelming amount of ice on a car, then logically an ice storm had to have put it there, right? But my head wasn’t having any of it. So I just asked him what direction he had come from.
The man looked a bit frazzled as he ran his hand through his hair. “Dallas”, he replied. Then he must have seen the nervous look on my face and he opened his mouth to speak. At this point I thought the guy was going to soothe me by saying something like, “Its not that bad. We have them all the time down here…”
The man looked me right in the eye and said, I kid you not, “Don’t go there. I don’t know how we got through it. People are sliding off left and right. Seriously.” and that was it. He turned around and fussed with his vehicle some, and I was left to walk back to my SUV.
We went anyway.
We went through Central Oklahoma City just fine.
I was now certifiably scared, but it still didn’t occur to me what ice storm meant until we started seeing ice on the road signs. And on trees. And on fences. The only thing we didn’t see it on was the road, and the reason is because it looked like wet roads. Like after a rain storm.
I took all this in as we slowed to a snail’s pace, thanks to the cars ahead of us. The crazy ones that chose to keep going, I mean. The blessing, and I mean BIG blessing is that we had just missed the real storm part. The freezing rain part. We were in the after math, and that was bad enough.
And this was just South Oklahoma City.
Cars had slid off the road in every which way direction. Some just slightly off the road, and some, all the way down this hill or that. Tree limbs, heavy with ice, had broken and fallen on cars, houses, and buildings. There was no traffic, by the way. Just the few of us cars going south through the city.
And how were we staying on the road? No clue. We were traveling maybe, possibly, 5 miles an hour, and we were still sliding around. This was not a highway with slick spots. It was an ice rink. There was no respite from the skating. Thank goodness we were on a level straightaway. Not all the cars by us stayed on the straightaway. I saw one move to an off ramp. It didn’t look good, as it was on a downhill slope.
Well, we crawled out of the city and eventually we moved past the ice and into the thaw. The slush and snow had never been so welcome. As we accelerated, I realized one thing. There was no sand or chemical salt anywhere on the roads we had just passed. WHY???
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages had just happened on the road, what with rescue attempts, and accidents. The roads needed to be ready, and how! I am assuming, no I know, that what I had just seen wasn’t a first time for the Texas/Oklahoma border. Where were the ground crews?
We made it to Dallas. I was rattled. We all were. Grandpa had never been so quiet.
I shook off the fright by the time it was time to return to Denver (and after we found absolutely no signs of Google “Weather”). We returned home and had a good story to tell.
But as I am doing research now on the ins and outs of weather crews for the Texas/Oklahoma area, The results are underwhelming. Sand and salt are readied for the season, however many times the crews don’t get the sand or salt out until after the ice storm has hit! And then it is spread slowly, as the slick roads impede any vehicle driving on them.
This seems ludicrous to me, but then so did the enormity of the damage and fright of a good ice storm, before I experienced one. I hope they prepare better and this was a fluke, because it is senseless to be under-prepared and let any city go through that again. Not needed a’tall.
Now that I have experienced the effects of an ice storm (and who am I kidding, I only touched the tip of it), I think about other storms that I have discounted. Sand storm… Locust storm… You know what I’m saying. I think about them and cringe inside. Then I think, Southerners aren’t as thin-skinned as I originally thought. They go through ice storms and hurricanes quite a bit, and they still live and thrive. I shudder again.
Maybe I am the thin-skinned one.