One hour to go, and we would be home from our holiday vacation. Unless that is, we get caught in a 17-hour traffic nightmare.
Emergency Preparedness is my jam. (pun intended)
Whether it’s how I prepare my purse, my luggage, my car, or my home, I feel more comfortable and safer when I am ready for an emergency.
In high school and college, I studied sports medicine and was the team trainer for my high school football team. This is where I learned emergency management, medical training, and logistics under the guidance of the local Fire Chief, who was one of my first mentors.
Later in life, I had the privilege of volunteering for his Fire Department, where I not only learned best practices but learned what NOT to do simply by observing the emergencies we responded to and seeing what people might have done differently to avoid the emergency. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent crises, and the most you can hope for is by using best practices, you will be prepared to deal with whatever comes your way.
January 2022, we were driving home from our annual pilgrimage to Florida, where we had an excellent time with family and, like always, didn’t want to leave. Since a significant snowstorm had hit the east coast, we delayed our trip by a day and a half. We watched the road cameras, the weather, and radio reports and got on the road for the drive home. We even split the drive into two days to give things more time to thaw.
Our plan was working. We stopped an hour or so from home, even though we could have pushed through. We gassed up, used the bathroom, and got food. Later, this decision played heavily into how we survived the next 24 hours so well.
As we left the gas station, traffic was moving, and I hadn’t heard anything on the radio of concern. I was looking forward to getting home before bed. It was below freezing, and I am not a fan of the cold. (hence the visits to Florida) Unbeknownst to us, there was a tractor-trailer accident involving seven trucks that were causing a 40-mile backup directly ahead of us. And we had just passed the last exit to get off the highway.
Traffic came to a full stop.
So, yeah. This wasn’t good. The road had been passable with cars and trucks constantly moving. But as we sat, the road started to freeze up. The sides of the roads were already frozen, which will come into play later. It was 20-something degrees out, and for those of you not from the southeast, we have SO few snowstorms that it is just not financially doable to have as much winter weather equipment and supplies as our Northern brothers and sisters.
As we listened to the radio, we still didn’t know about the tractor-trailer issue, but even if we had, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome:
We were trapped.
As far as the eye could see, in front and behind us, we were stuck along with everyone else. At that point, I started counting my blessings – we had gassed, eaten, and use the restroom just before. We didn’t have elderly, small children, or pets. We had a big van and a way to charge our electronics – as long as the gas held out.
Many people tried different strategies – none of which worked very well. One fellow turned his car completely around and drove back up the ramp 1/2 mile behind us. If he was successful, it was only because he owned a 2 door spec, and I honestly don’t know if he made it or not. Several people tried to walk, but every one of them fell down several times. There was no way to pull over (frozen ground), and even if we could have safely left our vehicle, where would we go?
As darkness set in, the temperature dropped, and it started to get cold. REALLY cold. I had blankets and towels in the van and gleefully reminded everyone how they make fun of me for always having all this “stuff” in my van. Of course, several hours later, when we knew we were there for the night, the glee died down a bit. It was 14 degrees outside. We would turn the car off, sleep for a few hours and then turn it on and sleep for a few hours.
Since we had a cooler, we had water and a few snacks, but by morning, everyone was more than ready to get out of the van. The ground was still slick, but after listening to the news and having no real answers about when this would end, two of us left the van to see if we could walk to a convenience store. Jokes were made about the Donner party, and when said store was found, it was pretty bare but did have bathrooms.
Most of the time, we were trapped, and I worked. Those that know me aren’t shocked. But seriously, what else was I going to do? 🙂
In the end, we were all undamaged (physically, anyway), and it makes for a great story at parties. But it also hits home about always being prepared for winter weather at home, at work, and in your car. Create an emergency supply kit for your vehicle. Include jumper cables, a first aid kit, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas. And maybe stay in Florida an extra few days if there is a big storm at home.
Rebecca is the founder of Sightseeing Sidekick travel blog and the publisher of both a lifestyle and a bridal magazine. Living in Northern Virginia, she’s a 50+ mother and grandmother who started travel blogging to share her “new to her” experiences as she has more time to travel. She hopes to “inspire women who previously may not have been able to travel due to career or family obligations to plan, sightsee, and create memories.” You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube