Driving in a Winter Wonderland

Got any ideas for safer commutes in scary weather? I need them. This winter’s been a bit too exciting around here. If I’m not mistaken, we’ve had at least one major storm per week since November. Given the fact that I have to drive down one mountain, around another, and across a long highway to get my kids to and from school every day, it can be a dangerous commute for us in the snow. And I’ve not been nearly as prepared as I should be. Sometimes I wish I could just sell the house and go get a condo close to the school. But in this last storm, not even that would have helped. Despite the high pressure bubble we’ve been living in for a few days, I -still- have at least 8 inches of crusty old snow on my front lawn, and we have another storm scheduled for sometime mid week. Today we get to replace the truck tires, as the last storm’s adventures somehow managed to render three of them completely flat.

A few weeks ago, I spent two hours in stuck in a ravine when a sudden winter storm beset us on our way to drop Mary off for kindergarten. As it became clear to her that we were going nowhere fast, Mary, ever my source of comic relief, wailed from the back seat, “We’re DOOMED! AND I’m going to miss Centers!!”

Visibility was -very- low, but few people really had to drive anywhere that time of day, and the storm died within an hour of my being rescued by a nice girl in what I’m guessing was an h2. I couldn’t tell for sure since I couldn’t see much in the snow and my nerves were shot. And since that day I’ve been too much a pansy to leave the school if the weather looked scary, choosing instead to stay and help out in the classes, and prompting Mary to say over dinner once, “If mom had gone to college, she’d know how to drive in the snow.” Gee, thanks Mary.

But on Wednesday, staying at the school would have been a bad choice. The storm started just after 3. By the time I picked up the kids, it was 3:20. The kids got in, buckled up, and somehow we reached home within about 10 minutes, which was pretty insane given the fact that the 10 mile commute usually takes me 25 minutes to half an hour. I certainly was not speeding… I could hardly see the highway. When I noticed the clock as we pulled into our driveway, I was surprised, but we just hurried into the house and went about our evening as usual. But when we saw the evening news we decided it really was a miracle — for us at least. The kids were quick to kneel and say thanks and pray for the people who were still in danger.

Of the people who’d started their commutes the same time we did, there were kids stuck on buses till nearly midnight, hundreds of people stranded at gas stations along the highway, and more than a few cars buried outright. One of them held a teacher from the kids school. She was eight months pregnant and starting to feel like she was going into labor. You can hear her story and see some photos of the ordeal here.

They were still digging out cars the next morning when we returned to school, as you can see by the photos in the slideshow there. I’m thankful everyone was OK. As far as I’m aware, there were no fatalities. Except my three truck tires that somehow managed to deflate over the weekend after driving over all that icy mess.

All this has me thinking though that its time to kick my emergency preparedness up a notch. Sure I’ve got stuff at home, but it wouldn’t have helped me out in this weather in the car. I’ve always rationalized that there are homes no more than a mile in any direction along the routes I always drive, but 1 mile in that storm took many people more than 3 hours by car – and by foot they could have been hit by cars sliding off the road. So I’m thinking I need to start keeping some items with me in the car. In fact, had I been stuck in that mess with preparedness items in my TRUNK, I still wouldn’t have been able to get to it in that weather.

Does anyone have recommendations as to what items should be with me in the car (as well as what should go in the trunk?) I’m going to be thinking about it today, getting a few items, and posting what I come up with over the next few weeks as well. I would love to have your input. Hopefully the ideas will help us all be a little safer.