13 October 2010

Trial by Wind and Rain

Athough the next major event that happened shouldn’t have been a surprise, it was. I had been lulled into a false sense of complacency the day before when I had gotten to drive all morning without anything else happening to impede my progress.  We’d gotten the rest of the way through Wyoming and deep into Nebraska, another state that felt very long because I was driving from one end to the other. We'd had a good night of rest and were ready for another day. The kitties cooperated a little more. Anjolie did much better because we’d stayed in a place that was obviously designed for kitties who like to find hiding places. There simply were no places for her to hide so she was easy enough for me to capture and load into the truck. Once we were all loaded, we headed on our way. It was a comfortable temperature and while I probably ran the air conditioner part of the day, I didn’t need it much of the day. In fact it was rather cloudy and it looked for a long time like there was some sort of stormy weather system ahead.

It had only just begun to rain a little bit when I noticed an eighteen-wheeler starting to pass me going up a slight incline. When he had just barely passed me, we both were hit by a huge blast of wind that sent both of our trucks onto the right shoulder of the road. The truck very nearly hit me when this happened. Had the blast come a couple of seconds earlier, it would have driven the tractor-trailer into the cab of my truck on the side where I was sitting. We both struggled to bring our rigs back under control, once the wind blast was over. Quite honestly I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get my vehicle under control first. My relief at getting safely back onto the road quickly dissipated when I looked up to find that the truck driver in front of me was trying to keep his rig from jack-knifing. Given that he’d just barely gotten in front of me when we both got blown off the road, you can imagine how close I was behind him still. I tried to slow down right away but that was no easy task given what I was driving.

Before I even had time to say a prayer, he suddenly got it under control. It was so fast that I don’t know how he did it. I think we both had angels giving us a hand because it was apparently not his time or my time to go. I was very aware of how close I’d just come to being the filling of a truck sandwich. It probably would have been quick but unexpected to be sure. Why should I have such a sudden urgency to get to Florida only to end up another highway fatality? I knew that wasn’t in the cards, so I focused my attention on the road in front of me. The rain was picking up, and the truck was moving on down the highway in front of me.

The winds kept gusting, and the rain came down like a fire engine’s hose was being directed at my windshield. I couldn’t see to drive safely yet there was nowhere to go that would be any safer, given that no one else would be able to see either. After at least a half hour of blinding rain and heavy gusts of wind, I finally spied a rest area ahead and pulled into the area where the trucks were parked. There was only one space left, so I slid into it and waited for the rains to slow down enough for me to head to restrooms.

Once inside the facility, I ran into another woman who was as perplexed about the weather as I had been. An hour or more earlier, when I had seen the weather system miles ahead of me, I had phoned my mother and asked her and Amy, my niece, to find out what on earth was going on in Nebraska. They both assured me that the forecast was only for thunderstorms, yet this was anything but your basic thunderstorm. I have lived through hurricanes in Florida and wind and ice storms in North Carolina and Washington, and the kind of blast I’d been hit by was the stuff of weather disasters. Finally I heard from the weather station video at the rest area that they were calling for high winds in Nebraska. Uh huh. I was pretty sure that we had already noticed that part. What I wanted to know was if there had been any tornados spotted in this crazy weather system, but no one seemed to have any answers. I called my mother again, and still the Weather Channel was not reporting anything amiss. Not until hours after it had started did any news trickle into the weather stations. Okay then. I was obviously on my own.

If no one knew we were in the midst of a hugely destructive storm, how could I get any clues about where I should head other than where I was already? A few hours back, I had approached the exit to another interstate that would have taken me south to the next interstate that would have taken me east again. I had a nudge to take the southerly route, given the storm I could see in the distance, and I guess I should have listened to the nudge, but that was after I’d already called home to find out what kind of weather was ahead of me. With no indication of severe weather being reported ahead of me, I had to conclude that it looked worse than it actually was.

Once again in my life, I had encountered the message to trust what I see myself in nature and to heed my intuitive nudges over listening to the weather reports. Those folks can’t be everywhere at the same time, and apparently they mostly report weather. Predicting weather is not all that easy. When I had gotten snowed in for two weeks around Christmas of 2008, I would have been a lot worse off if I hadn’t listened to the nudges to stock up on food supplies for myself and my cats. The forecasters weren’t calling for multiple storms coming in back to back for a week or more. They were just calling for one snow storm.

By the time it was over, no one could have told you exactly how many storms in a row had rolled over us. They sort of all merged into one massive rolling storm that lasted for a week or more, instead of multiple little systems, each one delivering its own sleigh full of snow, ice, wind, and more snow. Fortunately I didn’t lose my electricity that whole time, and I never ran completely out of food supplies even though I had felt a little silly at the time stocking up as though there weren’t going to be any stores open for the next week. The stores were there all right. I just couldn’t get to them easily any more and neither could anyone else because for the first few days, the snow plows we did have on hand couldn’t keep up with the demand. Even the big city of Seattle came to an abrupt halt for a week.

The key to surviving strange and unpredictable weather occurrences lies in listening to that inner urging to do something different from your normal routine. The urging will either be suddenly strong or it will be a constant nagging, depending on how much time you have to act on the intuitive nudge. Had I gone the other way, I may have missed out on the worst of that weather system. At the time, the nudge was less urgent but presented as an option. Although I didn’t take it, my life didn’t depend on it that time, but when the nudges are particularly urgent, your life may very well depend on it. While it may not turn out to be a life-threatening event, it might be a less stressful option. I think I probably would have hit rain anyway, but perhaps it would have been less intense, and I could have skipped the close encounter with the semi. There’s a lot to be said about avoiding stressful driving conditions, which is why I got off the road early that day to avoid catching up to the terrible storm I’d let pass over me during my break at the rest area.

Once it had cleared, and I’d gotten back on the road, I discovered that the ominous black wall of scary weather wasn’t moving very fast. I was on the phone with my mother for a while giving her my location and where I thought I might have to stop for the evening. It was early yet, but I was barely staying behind that storm, and the last thing I wanted to do was to run into it again after dark.

She and my niece figured out a good place for me to stop for the night where they accepted kitties and had internet access, so I called it a day at dinner time. I ate a real meal that evening while my cats sat in a much cooler truck with the windows cracked. I had to confess that the scary weather system had made it much cooler than it had been even after the first cooling that had accompanied the hailstorm in Wyoming.

That night after we were unloaded, we all had a much better night’s sleep. I was very grateful for my family’s help at finding cat-friendly accommodations, and I was grateful to be alive. Although I had been calm enough during the wind storm, the battering rain had really been tough to deal with because of not being able to see anything beyond my steering wheel. I was glad to be able to relax earlier in the day. The cats were in heaven because they were allowed to romp around the room again after a much shorter day of being cooped up in the cab of the truck.

Beth Mitchum is the author of five novels, one collection of poetry, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks

No comments:

Post a Comment