Monday, December 27, 2010

Our First Blizzard

They say fish are like house guests...after three days, they start to smell.  After a week with Brett's parents for the holidays, we're sure they were more than happy to have control over their thermostat and the family dog Halley probably didn't mind seeing Heather pack her things.

Our journey back to New York turned out to be a little more exciting than the trip down.  Hard to believe right? After all the fun we had hitting alligators tires in the middle of the road, it's hard to imagine anything would top that.  Oh, y'all...

With snow in the forecast for Charlotte, we started seeing the white stuff fall on the evening of Christmas Day.  It was the first Christmas Day snow the Queen City had seen in 60+ years!  Sure, it's nice and all until you have to get out in it.  The snow was still coming down while we were packing our bags up on Sunday morning.  With roads clear in Charlotte, we set off for New York...knowing it was going to be a rough ride.

Gettin' ready to roll!
Once a generation Christmas Day snow in Charlotte
Charlotte's pretty clear roads
The storm system that dumped the snow in Charlotte was headed up the East Coast...and not in a good way. The Northeast was bracing for a BLIZZARD!  And guess where these two clowns were headed?  Right in the middle of it.  Oh, and remember that survivor kit Heather made for her car?  Take a wild guess at where it was...that's right, back in New York.

We considered alternative driving routes, but it didn't really matter.  To get back to Albany, we had to cross paths with the storm at sometime...and we couldn't really wait.  Brett had to be at work on Monday and Heather had a job interview.  Thankfully, we kept up with weather conditions through Facebook and Tweets from our news buddies and a few of our television meteorologist friends.  KFVS's John Dissauer was a huge help!

Folks, if weathermen you personally know, forecasters on the Weather Channel and the NFL tell you to stay home because the weather is too should probably listen.  The NFL actually cancelled Sunday's Eagles v. Vikings game in Pittsburgh and re-scheduled for Tuesday because of the impending weather.

Heading out of North Carolina was no big deal.  The roads were clear, the snow was pretty and the traffic was flowing.  Things actually got better the further north we went, but it was so misleading.

Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

We kept listening to the AM stations for road condition updates while traveling through Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.  In Pennsylvania, it was sort of like an eerie calm (literally before the storm).  In the southern part of the state, the skies were grey and overcast, but not a drop was falling from the sky.  We didn't stop for potty breaks or for lunch because we knew we needed to get as far as we could while the sun was still up.  Good thing the Prius doesn't use much gas either!

Southern PA
Photo taking in a moving car is hard.
Blizzards are usually defined as a severe storm characterized by low temps, strong winds (around 35 mph) and can include heavy snow.  We only know because we had to ask.  What we didn't ask was how fast they could strike.  We were just driving along zippity-do-da in PA and suddenly it was like the Prius was about to take flight and the snow just came pouring from the sky.

Accumulation was brutal!  At one point the bumper of the Prius was scraping the snow drifts in the middle of the Interstate, the sound was horrible!  We were ahead of the snow plows and didn't see one until we were nearly out of New Jersey.  We made a plan to exit and get a hotel for the night, but when we realized we couldn't get off any of the ramps we found there was really no other choice than to keep moving.  We didn't feel safe sitting on the side of the road at all!

About 25% of driving in bad weather is dealing with the actual conditions...the other 75% is watching out for the idiots on the road.  People were driving like maniacs.  Call us overly cautious Southerners caught in our first blizzard, but semi trucks creating three lanes out of two are probably not the best idea...especially traveling at Mach One.

Blowing snow isn't white.  It's black.  Driving home in a blizzard is a lot like being chewed up and spit out by the Smoke Monster on Lost.  It is arguably the scariest thing weather condition we have ever seen while driving a car.

Mapquest logs our journey from Charlotte to Clifton Park as 789 miles and it normally takes us about 12 hours.  We left Brett's parents house in NoDa around 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning.  We made it to Clifton Park around 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning...18 hours later.  On the bright side, traveling less than 35 mph in a Prius only uses about 4 gallons of gas.

That road trip was the most harrowing experience.  We are absolutely sure that the prayers from our friends, family and folks we don't even know helped get us to our destination.  Brett drove the entire trip like a champ and Heather painted her fingernails.

To get our luggage and presents into our front door at our apartment in Clifton Park, Heather cleared the walkway quickly with her neighbor Peggy's shovel that she keeps outside.  And nope, she didn't even chip a nail.

Here's a snapshot of her haphazard work, taken around 3:30 a.m. 

Same view...around 9:00 a.m.

The storm we drove through buried parts of the East Coast up to as much as 32 inches!  Albany and the Clifton Park area got hammered with about 12", which way more than we were ready to see.

We 'successfully' survived our first blizzard and learned a lot of valuable life lessons on this last trip to Charlotte.  Namely that we would rather be stuck in an airport than a ditch any day.