Monday, December 15, 2008

Digging Fargo out, or why North Dakota living is an aquired taste.

Its o dark thirty on Monday morning, and I didn't go to work this morning. Why? Because Saturday night/Sunday morning Fargo got hit with a proper blizzard. I like Blizzards, and this one was a doozy. I worked Sunday morning, and getting to work was pretty easy, getting home... was an adventure.

Please note - in blizzard conditions, driving is generally a bad idea. I've been living in this country all my life, and I don't do it if I don't have to. Sunday morning most people were taking that advice. I didn't have a choice, I didn't want to stay at work.

There was a good solid four inches of snow in the parking lot when I left work. Thats just about enough to get your average two wheel drive small car or truck stuck if you stop in the wrong spot. I drive one of the probably TWO two wheel (rear) drive pickups in the state that get used at all in the winter (my dad owns the other one), and while our road crews are some of the best in the nation, I knew getting home would be... interesting.

It was. Visibility bounced from a couple hundred yards at best to zero, oftly fast. There weren't too many other vehicles on the road - and things went rather swimmingly (except for the few idiots who didn't understand that in conditions like this, as long as your not in incoming traffic, lanes are at best a suggestion - avoid the snow drifts people, your car won't like them :P) I kept an average speed of 25 to 30 miles an hour - slow enough to stop relatively quickly in the conditions - fast enough to keep my momentum up and hit most of the timed lights without stopping.

Interstate was closed from the Minnesota State line out to Jamestown so my typical route home was extended a fair bit. But I'd rather be breathing and slow, then stuck out in a ditch and freezing.

It got downright scary when I got south of 32nd Ave on 45th Street. This is the chunk of road that is always the most interesting. The road goes from four lanes to two, and its a rather narrow two lanes with steep ditches on each side. Cars end up in the ditch around here repeatedly in poor conditions.

Today was no exception. One poor idiot had forgotten that one lane simply ENDS south of 32nd and had driven straight into the ditch. The car was emtpy or I would have stopped to make a pick up. You just don't want to sit around out here like this - your car can be retrieved later.

It was a good thing I slowed down to check, cause when I looked back forward (there are no windbreaks down this section of 45th street) I see some jackass in a chevy impala BACKING UP at me.... through the white out.

I hit my brakes, the guy behind me did the same, and the guy in front of me apparently changed his mind and put it in drive. And then proceeded to inch along for just over a half mile at speeds topping out at 10 miles an hour, but consistantly dropping to about five.

Now, I'll give the guy the benifit of the doubt, it WAS a pretty solid white out, and hard to see. But I could make out the edge of the road - and I could see him - most of the time. Worse, he was weaving, and consistantly moving into the opposing lane. I had this image of sum dood swerving into my lane to avoid idiot number one infront of me, and running smack into me.

Luckily, he turned off before that happened, and I got to proceed at a safer speed of about twenty. I got back to my apartment to see a beautiful drift building in front of the driveway to the garages. So I whipped a cookie and parked it, and then went and walked the way back to my garage. I figured it was doable, but I'd have to keep my speed up. Which is hard when making a turn.

Which is why I'm glad my garage entrance runs straigh into a side street. so a cut down the street, brought the truck around without getting stuck, and took a bit of a run at it. Made it up to my garage successfully. A few minutes later I had it open (its got an opener, but it doesn't like hauling the door in the cold) and managed to squeak my pick up inside.

I got upstairs and after touching base with various people so they knew I was alive and home, went to bed.

Bout six tonight, I got up, and came to the conclusion that there was no way in hell I was getting to work. The roads were *mostly* cleared but my parking lot was not. There were five foot drifts in some sections, and it was heavy enough that I knew I'd never get to the road without a smile and a wink from $DEITY. So, I called in - expecting to work from home - which I can do.

Except my cable kept conking out so that ended up being a no happening deal too.

It never really hit me just how BIG a blizzard we had til I got out this morning about an hour ago. I thought I'd drop by Denny's for a bite to eat, then bound back home. I got to Dennys just fine to find it closed. Dennys closes for about 6 hours on Christmas... and thats it around here. So I wandered back by Hornbauchers (24 hour super market which is just down the street from me. They were closed too. This never ever happens :P The only vehicles out were tow trucks and snow moving equipment. And they were still losing the battle in some parts of town I drove through (and I didn't get through much).

Today we're going to see wonderous temps in the -30s to -40s with windchill. More snow is possible, and the wind isn't expected to let up for a good bit yet.

Yep. This is a North Dakota winter alright.

God I love it.

-Jon

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