Saturday, January 20, 2007

Thursday we got our first taste of ‘winter’ here….

After a weekend in the 70’s and then temperatures slowly dropping into daytime highs in the forties, Thursday morning found us receiving a bit of frozen precipitation.

The morning news, as well as the various internet and cable weather forecasters had all claimed the ground was too warm for anything more than some accumulations on ‘grassy’ areas however.

So it was armed with all of this high tech information that I got in the car and set out on my 50 minute morning commute to the office.

As I was slowing for the turn onto the interstate I noticed that the bridge I was on had managed to get a bit slick, “Nothing serious” I thought, but filed that little piece of information away for the drive.

As I was entering the interstate, I also noticed that the road was not ‘wet’, but beginning to become snow covered, despite some rather heavy traffic. I decided to ease up to speed in the ‘slow’ lane until I’d reached the top of the rise and saw what the traffic ahead looked like.

I’d just matched the speed of the pickup in front of me, noticed the semi pulling up on my left, and the one along side that pickup in front when it happened….

The tail-end of that pickup twitched to the left slightly, I eased off the gas a bit, then it twitched hard again, but to the right this time… again I lifted off the gas… about that time the pickup got almost sideways and clipped the front of that semi…

The impact tossed the pickup back into our lane, but now it was spinning… in one of those spins it clipped the guard rail and got airborne… rolling over twice, landing on its side…. Then, just as I reached it, slid off the road and over the edge of the embankment….

I managed to get my car stopped, find the four way flashers… grab my cell phone and dialed 911 as I ran back to the truck… as I was giving the 911 guy the location, I heard the driver moving in the truck… he said he was fine, but needed help getting out.

I told the 911 operator the driver claimed to be fine, but to please roll some help and hung up as I climbed up to help the driver climb out.

He got out Ok.. and amazingly enough, he was fine, not a scratch. His pickup however looked much worse for the experience.

Both of the truck drivers stopped as well… the most amazing thing to me, besides the fact that no one else (including me) got gathered up in this incident, was the way that both of these big rig drivers stopped, and made sure help was on the way.
As we were waiting, there was another crash, in the opposing lanes, and a driver hit that concrete center barrier hard… with snow falling heavily now, and daylight just barely making it possibly to see more than a few feet without the aid of headlights… it all seemed very surreal.

I remember thinking, as I watched things unfold, that “this is going to hurt”, then, as the truck slide out of my way a split second before we would have hit, it felt like some sort of NASCAR slow motion replay… but it wasn’t, it was real time, real people and real dangerous.

I’ve never let the weather deter me from driving where ever I wanted to go. I’ve driven 100’s of miles in blizzards, on closed interstates, on roads where it was impossible to tell where the road actually was… staying ‘on the road’ only by trying to watch for guardrails, telephone polls and other markers.

I’ve had many, many, close calls… this however was the closest I think I’ve ever been to a 50+ mile an hour, in traffic, collision.

I’m thankful for many things, those new Goodyear tires I put on the car this fall, anti-lock brakes… and yes… seat and shoulder belts. The driver of that pickup was wearing his; I doubt he’d have escaped injury if he hadn’t been.

I didn’t continue on to the office that morning, instead I returned to the house and worked from home. On returning, the news was story after story about the dozens, and dozens, of accidents, between where I’d been, and the office. The commute would have been several hours at least from the reports.

One last thing, this whole thing, from the first twitch of that truck, to getting my car stopped took only a couple of seconds, perhaps 10 at best as I’d only traveled about the length of a football field or so, from start to finish.

I’ve mentioned before how intense traffic can be at times… and I know I’ve had a tendency lately to drive a little closer than I should to the car in front of me… I’m thankful that all those years of Upstate New York winter driving kicked in as I eased onto the interstate Thursday morning… I hung back and decided to ease into traffic… I really don’t want to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t!

Please drive safely folks… You never know what might happen next!



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13 comments:

deuxfuss said...

Glad you are alright. I worked for a mover. He told me "we always stop and help, we got blankets".

justelise said...

Both you and that pickup driver are lucky. It's good to know that you're both alright.

I am still amused by how freaked out the drivers around here in NC are about snow though. I grew up in NYC and went to college in PA so I eat snow for breakfast. I just don't understand why the news gets drivers all in a tizzy over some snow and why everyone freaks out thinking about the snow storm you got a couple of winters ago.

Driving in the snow is not a big deal. Just don't drive too fast, make sure you've got on good tires which are properly inflated, and don't jam on the brakes. Technically driving on snow/ice is not much less dangerous than driving in the rain.

Bill said...

Thanks Duexfuss... neither of these big rigs were movers, but all the folks were stand up guys... sort of refreshing to see!

Hi JustElise. thanks. I think the big difference between frozen precip here in NC, and the northeast is the absence of large amounts of salt and sand. They've got this 'brine' solution stuff they spread down in advance, but, in my 13 years here I have not seen it make that much of a difference.

When we get snow, or ice, the roads become a skating rink, and quickly... There are roads upstate that would get a 3 inch hard pack on them by mid-January, but with all the sand in the mix there was still pretty decent traction... not so here in NC.

Thanks for stopping in!

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

Glad you are okay, Bill!

I did not venture out when we got our Ice Storm at the end of November. The Jeep isn't fitted with ice skates! :-)
Stay safe out there!

Liz

Spirit Of Owl said...

Wow, Bill, I'm so glad you all made it ok!

It's so often dismissed as easy preachin' to say, "Drive safe," but you know better, and it's great to hear that it's worked for you. Those couple of seconds at speed are so important, and to take the belt precautions - well, here you are telling us about it.

Hmm, maybe that's what makes you a FoxPro guy - take the risks? Sure... well, at least you let everyone think so, but the delivery is under control! LOL

Bill said...

Hi Liz, thanks... Where I grew up, if we didn't venture out when it was slippery, we'd have stayed indorrs from late October through early May! So I rarely let driving conditions keep me off the road...

Spirit!!! Great to see you my friend... ot's been far too long since we've talked! I took a step back from the 'risk' edge this week... as I signed on with the company I'd been contracting for... you're right though, most of my life has been one of taking a step, even though I knew the risks.

Lorna said...

glad youère all right---my son drove a big rig, a car-hauler, and I was always so proud of him for the way he offered help---he saw some pretty bad stuff, and had a rollover near Atlanta that left me shaking for months.

Firehawk said...

Bill,

Sometimes things happen in traffic that are just waaay too close. I've had many times when I thought, "I just want to get home unscathed at this point."

I'm glad you did so. I think that following too close is one of the biggest sins of modern traffic. When you're right on the next guy's tail, you have no margin for error. He hits something, and you hit him.

I try not to "drive angry" but sometimes, you just get into that mode. Especially when the roads are slick, it can lead to big, multi-car accidents. It's only due to the really fine engineering that goes into modern cars that more people aren't seriously hurt.

It is amazing that, in the midst of an accident, your situational awareness will make things seem to dilate. I once slid completely across a four-way stop in the middle of a blizzard (old Dodge wouldn't stop or go if the snow got deep), and it seemed like I was sliding for about five minutes, looking in all directions, completly at the mercy of inertia. I got lucky. No one else was dumb enough to be driving.

Anyway, I'm glad you got out of it safely, and I'm glad you're back to posting again. Hope everyone in your neck of the woods is doing well.

Firehawk said...

Bill,

Just read your piece on Cesar Milan. I've watched the show many times, and I generally agree with his methods. However, I've always seen the places where people could really find fault, as well.

Always thinking of your dog as a dog can, it seems to me, take a little of the joy out of things.

When I was a kid, we had English Bulldogs, and they were just characters. Well behaved, but it was like having little old men in the house. We didn't really think of them as dogs, but as personalities. Everything they did, they did because they loved us. I don't know that we could have had that same level of attachment to them if they'd been approached the way Cesar advocates.

I recognize that the cases he's dealing with are problem dogs, and I'm sure that his techniques work. Maybe the trick is just to get the "pack" work out of the way, so you can move on to the part where you can enjoy them.

As to cats...they train us, not the other way around. Once we've grasped the ways in which we can properly serve them, everything will be fine.

Take care.

No_Newz said...

Wow, that was intense! I'm glad everyone was okay, especially you. Great planning on heading back home. :)

Kim said...

Holy crap Bill! How lucky can one guy get? I'm so happy this turned out okay, it could have been so much worse. I, like you, am thankful that I've driven in so many snowstorms in my lifetime and know how to respect the ice. It always amazes me how stupid people can be when the weather is bad. Thank goodness you are okay, big hugs my friend.

Firehawk said...

Bill,

Hope you're doing okay. Haven't seen any new postings from you in a while. Take care.

Bill said...

Lorna - Yep... for the most part those big rig drivers are the best!

Firehawk - Traffic is just nuts... I'm thankfull every single day that I make the commute round trip without getting hurt!

As far as the Cesar post... well they wanted the article for the new book, but let's just say we had an impasse on the release... I'll post something on that here soon.

Lois - Thanks kiddo.. I'm still trying toi shake loose for that trip.

Kim - Thanks... and big hugs right back!

Firehawk - (and everyone) I'm Ok... I've just been very busy and therefore pretty stressed (with work) last last few months.