Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mad Rush - Day 1 - Bloody Hell!


That sucked.

So, we slept in a little bit this morning, thinking we'd be well ahead of the weather, and still be able to make Little Rock, or at least Hope or Texarkana, before we wanted to bed down.

.... and we would have been.

But for this:

Which, by the by, is nowhere near the full or true story. More on that in another post, another time.

What it came down to, was that we were at a dead stop, or slow crawl on I-10 for about 5 hours.

Even better, we were in in a cell and data deadzone for most of that time. Thankfully we had plenty of gas, plenty of drinks and snacks, and audiobooks (and didn't need to use the bathroom).

We first came to a stop a couple miles past Texas state road 34, mile 87. We had literally dozens of emergency vehicles, mostly border patrol, but some county sheriffs and texas highway patrol, and some local ambulance and fire; racing back and forth by us for hours... Even worse, they were inspecting trucks and trailers for the first few of those hours (which, I suspect, is WHY it was hours, not a few minutes).

... as I said, more on that another time, in another post.

After crawling our way a few hundred yards at a time, with 2-20 minutes stops in between, up to mile 107; we were shunted off I-10 onto Texas 1111 in a "town" called Sierra Blanca.

It was after 3pm at this point, with over 4.5 hours spent moving those 20-ish miles.

Even better however, was that they were not allowing access to the eastbound lanes at all. They forced us into a diversion route. It took us almost 20 minutes just to make the turns from the off ramp, onto the state road, under the highway, then onto an unmarked road paralleling the highway, for 13 miles; with a Sheriff's vehicle or Border patrol vehicle blocking all egress from the road, and all access to I-10.

So, we made those 13 miles at about 30mph, in convoy with the hundreds of trucks that had been stopped, finally making it back onto the highway at Van Horn, about 40 miles from the I-10/I-20 split.

By now it was 3:45, 5 hours from when we had first come to a stop.

Now... the whole idea of leaving Friday night, had been to get through Texas before the nasty weather hit Saturday night; then through the southeast before the nasty weather hit Tuesday; and into New England before the nasty weather hit Wednesday.

Basically, were trying to run between the storm systems.

Unfortunately, by the time we got back on the highway, and particularly by the time we hit I-20 around 4pm; the weather had overtaken us, and we started to get some pretty nasty wind, ice rain, hail, fog etc...

By 4:45, we had passed 4 major injury or multi-fatality crashes (a couple we could see directly, others... I've seen a lot of accidents... barring a miracle, they were not surviving those), and the weather map looked like this:

On the ground, it was a hell of a lot worse. We were alternating between torrential rain, frozen rain, and near whiteout conditions; with over an inch of ice, slush, and hail on the roads, high winds, driving frozen rain, and ice fog. Our windshield wipers could barely keep up (though the heater had no problem keeping us comfy... It dropped from 39 degrees to 23 degrees in a matter of minutes).

So, the second we got data signal back, we booked the next hotel we could get into (in Pecos), and white knuckled it the remaining 15 miles or so.

Between the I-10/I-20 split, and our hotel (a total distance of 43 miles), we passed a total of 7 major injury or multi-fatality accidents, including 5 rollovers, and a three car multi-rollover (with one vehicle over the guard rail between the travel lanes of an overpass, crashing down to the roadway below). That doesn't include the half dozen cars we saw off the road (including one in front of us, and one across the median) , two we saw actually spin (one in front of, one across the median from us) and the several wrecked semi's pulled off into the median.

They closed both the I-20 and I-10 behind us, a few minutes after we got off the road. A T-Dot official came into the hotel while we were checking in and told everyone. Their crews were filling up rooms quick.

Every hotel room in Pecos was full before 6pm tonight; and the 18 wheelers are filling up all the local parking lots. There's at least a dozen of them in the Wal Mart parking lot alone; and there must've been 100+ in and around the flying J.

I found out later that they had pulled so many wrecks off the road in this sector of the I-20 alone, that their tow yard couldn't handle them. They used that same local Wal Mart as an overflow. I counted 11 total writeoffs in the Wal Mart parking lot when I went by there later... and who knows how many in their local tow yard(s).

I can say without any exaggeration; that was the single worst day of travel I have ever had, that didn't involve the death of someone important to me.