Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 7, 2013

Snowy commutes: Recent winter blast renews longing for spring


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Tuesday evening I was wondering if I would be able to keep a Wednesday morning appointment with my car mechanic. Forecasters were predicting heavy, wet snow for the region, but there was some question about how much we would actually get. There was a possibility of two to three inches, but I knew that could change if a  storm front passing over the region decided to move south. State road crews and crews with Appalachian Power prepared for the worst.

I checked the weather forecast when I got home and kept looking out my apartment windows for signs of a snowstorm. Just as I got ready for bed, I took one more look and saw the dark sky spitting some snow.

Here we go, I thought to myself.

In the distant past, I watched the weather news with anticipation. A snowstorm often meant no school the next day. It meant a day of sleeping in, playing in the snow and watching television. I would go to bed after watching the snow come down and wonder whether it would be enough for a day off.

When morning arrived, I would cautiously look outside. Did we get enough snow? If the ground and, more importantly, the streets were covered, the chances were good for a snow day. On the days when a heavy blanket of snow greeted me, my response was, “Yes!”

Now that I’m older and have a couple of snow-related accidents under my belt, my response is different. I look outside, and if I see heavy snow all over the roads and clinging to the power lines, my reaction isn’t fit for tender ears. The kids get to stay home, but I and the rest of the adult world must get out into that stuff. I try to pick up my morning pace because I know snow shoveling and windshield scraping are going to join the morning routine. And I know the fun won’t end there.

The next big hurdle is actually getting to the newsroom. Highway crews often have the roads clear already, but there is always that chance that Mother Nature is making more deliveries as they work. That’s when I have to go slowly and carefully while always remembering the time when slow and careful didn’t keep me out of a ditch.

Years ago when I got my first reporting job, a post at a weekly called the Montgomery Herald, I was still going through that period when I was living with Mom and Dad in South Charleston. The newspaper was, of course, in the town of Montgomery, so I had my first commute, too, in my first car.

One day we had a heavy snowfall, but I was determined to get to work and prove my worth. The era of snow days was over. I got into my used car and headed for Montgomery.

The traffic was creeping along, but that was OK because slow speed was safer. Then it happened. Suddenly, I went into a spin and shot stern first over an embankment. My car’s engine sputtered and died. For a few seconds, I sat there is disbelief. What the heck had happened? Another motorist paused and I could see her lips say, “Are you OK?” I gave her the thumbs up and she moved on. Then I actually got my car started and drove back to the highway. I had survived. My confidence was  boosted.

My second winter weather mishap shook my soul. I was driving south on Interstate 77 to visit my sister’s family in Charlotte. Wet, heavy snow had covered the highway by the time I reached Wytheville, so I decided to pull off at the next exit. That next exit didn’t come soon enough.

I was going too fast. I realize that now. All of a sudden I spun from the far left-hand lane across three lanes and right off the highway. I came to rest in a snow bank. After letting out a hoarse howl of horror, I sat there for a minute and marveled at my own stupidity. Once again, I managed to get my car started and headed for an exit. My car was making funny noises, so I called my family and let them know I wouldn’t be coming. I had pushed my luck as far as it would go. I still feel that way today. Whenever I drive in bad weather, I have that wary, heart-in-your-mouth feeling. I still wait for that awful, floating sensation that says you’re no longer in control. The ice has got you and you’re going for a ride.

However, Wednesday morning wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be. We didn’t get a lot of snow, and it was that dry, powdery stuff instead of the wet, clinging variety. The Department of Highway trucks were out, and the road were in decent shape. I still had that ninja alert/dread feeling while driving to my appointment, but I got to the service center without any trouble.

I’m glad spring is approaching because I’ve had enough of snow days. We’re all ready for spring and days when you don’t see the salt trucks out roaming or wonder where you put the snow shovel. I want to arrive home while it’s still daylight, and I don’t want to worry about getting my gloves and coat. I’m tired of trying to keep my heating bill under control. I want to open my windows and let some warm air flow through my home.

A warming trend is expected this weekend, so I’ll take that as a good sign. Soon we won’t have to go to bed wondering if we will have to scrape ice and shovel snow in the morning.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.