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The winter weather this year has wreaked all sorts of havoc throughout the nation. The South and Southwest, which aren’t used to the snow and ice, were crippled by the weather with people stuck on the highways for hours and kids being stuck at schools and on buses as road crews tried to deal with the extreme winter weather.
Even the Northern, Midwest, Mountain and East Coasts states that are used to getting severe winter weather were hit pretty hard with subzero temps and accompanying winter storms from the polar vortices and other weather patterns.
In fact, I have my own winter weather story about getting stuck on the highway.
My boys, mother-in-law and I were traveling from the Columbus, Ohio, area to the Chicago area for the weekend. There were winter storm warnings, but I thought I had timed it just right to just be ahead of the storm. Growing up in the Snow Belt area of the Cleveland suburbs and living in Chicago for several years, I’m used to driving in snow. I’m smart about it, but a little snow doesn’t scare me. So we went ahead with our plans to head to Chicago and save my husband the drive home that weekend.
There was smooth sailing most of the way. Then I hit a part of I-65N in Indiana. I was the granny driver, going very slowly and carefully while others raced ahead of me only to end up in the ditch later on. Then I started seeing semi after semi in the ditch, some flipped.
Then the wind began to blow, which was reported to be about 40 mph. The snow picked up and was swirling and swirling. I was only about two hours out from Chicago, but I knew it wasn’t worth the risk to keep driving with other people in the car, especially my kids.
So I made the decision to get off the highway. However, I couldn’t find an exit. I couldn’t see more than 6 inches in front of me and was being blown between the lanes. I finally found an exit that I could see enough to get off at and spotted a Super 8 motel.
It was after midnight by that time so I breathed a sigh of relief until I saw the sign posted to the door, “No vacancy.” However, I walked into the lobby and kindly suggested that I’d like to stay there in case a room becomes available. It was that or filling up at the gas station across the street and keeping the car running all night with the mother-in-law and kids in the car to keep warm until it was safe to venture out again.
Then I mentioned that if a room were to become available, I’d be very happy to clean it myself and change the sheets. I knew I wouldn’t have to convince my Italian mother-in-law to help, either. (She’s pretty bold and has a way of making sure things get done! When I need to return an item that is subpar but a store is being difficult about it, I like to take her with me. She somehow makes it happen!)
The young man working the desk – and cleaning the rooms (yes, no one else could make it in so he was holding down the fort alone that night) – looked pensive for a minute and then determined that a room would be opening up but it would take him a while to get it cleaned. I reminded him again that we’d take care of that part for him so we brought the kids inside and the young man delivered cleaning supplies, clean sheets and towels, looking extremely grateful for the help.
My mother-in-law and I went to town changing sheets and sanitizing, and we soon had a warm place to sleep.
When we ventured out the next morning, it was still pretty treacherous even though Indiana road crews had spread salt, chemical de-icers and abrasives. In the conditions, those tactics were less effective because of piles of blowing snow covering the de-icing and traction material, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).
According to the agency, INDOT yellow plow trucks have logged nearly 4.3 million miles and deployed 265,000 tons of granular salt during this record winter, as of January 18, the latest statistics I was able to get at the time of writing this post.
In addition, INDOT says it had deployed nearly 2.5 million gallons of salt brine on Hoosier highways.
I know this trip was quite an experience for me. I really commend and thank the winter maintenance highway crews for their continued efforts and hard work to keep the motoring public safe. While I was able to take shelter in a warm motel room, the crews were out there all night plowing, salting and deicing.
We did safely make it to Chicago and then home again after less than a 24-hour stay so we could get home in time for school on Monday, only for my kids to have school canceled.
Editor’s note: Have you worked through conditions like those described above? Send us your story and photos, and we could publish it here at BetterRoads.com. Click here for details.