Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Blizzard of 2008

To say the least, February 13, 2008, was a most memorable day. It's not too often you have these kind of experiences, so I figure I better write it down for history. The weather reports had stated that there would be some rain Wednesday afternoon and possibly turn to snow in the evening, so it was quite a shock when blizzard conditions appeared that day. The morning was so nice, that Gracie had only taken a sweatshirt with her to school and no coat.

As every Wednesday, Tyler had his appointment with Mrs. Matthews, the speech teacher. We left the house at about 2:45 when the snow was just beginning to come down. Luckily I remembered that Gracie didn't have a coat and took it with me. Normally I have a neighbor watch Nathan while we are gone, but I just decided I would take him with me. At the school, Ridgeline Elementary, the wind was really starting to pick up, but I had been there days worse than that. Tyler was crying as I raced the boys into the school. He's a little on the soft side and wasn't fond of the snow blowing in his face. Thirty minutes goes by and school is now over. Gracie normally rides the bus to and from school but most Wednesdays she likes to ride home with us. Fortunately, this was one of those days. The wind was now REALLY blowing, you could hardly see in front of you. I knew I was going to have to make two trips to get the kids to the car. I leave Gracie in the school and push Nathan in the stroller while attempting to carry Tyler. The school kids outside are crying and screaming as they run to the buses or wait for parents to arrive. I finally make it to the car and go back for Gracie.

As I begin to drive out on the road, I could hardly see the cars in front of me. I let the final bus leaving the school pull out in front of me. I figured it would be easier to see and follow. We had only made it a few blocks when the bus stopped. By this time I could see nothing but the occasional splash of yellow. The car was shaking from the wind. It felt like we were going to be blown off the road. There were now three buses in front of me that had stopped and were not going anywhere. It was so windy they were afraid they would blow over if they tried to drive, not to mention it was a white out. The kids remained calm through it all, but I was beginning to panic. I called Marty and told him what was going on. He suggested that if I could, to turn around and go back to the school to wait it out. That is what I did. I ran back into the school to make sure they were still there and we could get in. By now, my jeans are soaked thru, hair sopping wet and all my make-up running down my face. I was quite a fright. Mrs. Matthews saw me come back in and recruited some men to help me get the kids back in the school. They had the other students who were waiting for parents in the library watching a movie. The school is one of the Weather Bug schools for channel 5 news. They had all the equipment in the library. The winds were around 40 miles an hour at that time. They later reached as much as 75 mph.

Eventually they had all the kids go to their classrooms as some of the buses were turning around. Of course, kindergarten teachers have to be stocked with snacks for little tummies. Mrs. Judd brought out crackers, cereal, popcorn and more for us to munch on. Later the school brought around PB & J sandwiches and Scooby Snacks for dinner. Tyler was having fun playing with all the stuff and Nathan was like a minature tornado tearing everything apart and dumping things onto the floor. It was about this time that Gracie started not to feel well. Before long she had a terrible fever. The nurse was able to give me some aspirin for her. For about an hour she just laid on the floor feeling quite miserable. It's now about 6:00 PM and they are still trying to get some of the buses back to the school. The storm is only getting worse and 3 buses are stuck on the Alpine Highway, which was just closed. UDOT also closed the road going to Suncrest and the enterence to Traverse Mountain.

Marty was at work in Salt Lake and his Honda, Accord just doesn't do well in the snow. Fortunately his brother-in-law, Jeremy, called on his way home and picked him up. He has 4 wheel drive and lives in our neighborhood. They left downtown about 5:45 PM and arrived home at 8:00 PM. Taking the back frontage road they were able to get in Traverse Mountain. The police were not posted at the other entrance. Our friend Rob, had called Marty earlier to let him know how bad the roads were coming out of Salt Lake. He also lives up the street from us. Marty told him that the kids and I were stranded at the school. Rob told Marty he was on his way to go rescue us. It wasn't until 8:15 PM that he arrived at the school to get us, since all the roads were closed and by this time approximately 1600 people were stuck on Alpine Highway.

The other two buses made it back to the school around 8:45, but Gracie's bus was still stuck and we later found out it had broken down. One of the kids from our neighborhood borrowed a friend's cell phone to call their parents and let them know where they were. Fortunately, the parents were able to go find them and get them off the bus around 6:30. Jenna and Mike were the first parents to arrive to the bus. The kids were scared, hungry and needed to go to the bathroom. They had been on the bus since 3:30. Some of the boys were peeing into a bottle, dumping it out the window and passing it down the line. Think about the poor little girls, that wasn't even an option for them. The bus driver happened to be a 23 year old substitute that day. I don't think he's going to be doing that again any time soon. The kids on the bus whose parents weren't able to get to them were later taken to a nearby church that was opened up.

So Rob arrived around 8:15 PM and we start moving car seats and kids to his car. I went back for the final load, Nathan, and headed for a door near where the car was parked. As I open the door, instead of a pathway like earlier, there is a 4 ft snowdrift in front of me. I'm holding Nathan in his car seat and climbing through some alternative smaller snow banks when I slip and fall with him landing right on top of my. No worries, all is well. We leave the school at 8:30 PM and make good time going down around American Fork. When we get to the freeway it is stopped and not moving at all, so we think we will be tricky and go thru back streets. Well, that didn't work either. Everywhere we went there was a line of stuck cars. It was so weird that one mile south there was only a little bit of wind and no snow, but as soon as you got within a mile or two of the highway and along the mountainside it was a blizzard. I never in my life have seen anything quite like it. The drifts were 4-5 feet high on the side of the roads, cars completely submerged, a wall of snow 7 feet high that appeared out of no where, and my favorite, a small truck high-centered on top of a rock in front of someone's yard. The front of the truck was about 4 feet high. The man was still sitting inside the truck, I think afraid to move for fear the truck would fall forward. But, if the rock wouldn't have been there, he would have gone through the front of the house. At first all the kids did really well. Gracie and Nathan immediately fell asleep and Tyler watched a movie. After about 20 minutes, Nathan woke up and screamed for 2 hours straight.

Since the entrance to Traverse Mountain was still closed, Marty suggested that we go thru Old Lehi out to Saratoga Springs and take Redwood Road north to Bangerter Highway and come south on the frontage road to get in to Traverse Mountain. Poor Rob, we will be forever indebted to him for rescuing us and sitting in the car for a total of 4 hours, which 2 hours consisted of nonstop screaming by Nathan. About 10:45 both of our cell phones died and neither of us had chargers. Thank heavens he had On Star in his car so we were still able to talk to Marty. And if we hadn't had the GPS system we would have had no idea where we were since you couldn't see anything at all. We finally arrived home at 12:15 AM. We were all beat!!! They cancelled school the following day, since 65 students and teachers had to sleep at the school and weren't able to get out until almost 11:00 AM. We also made national news the following morning. Marty's mom called to let us know that it was on Good Morning America. We are all still recovering this exciting adventure and now all the kids are sick. Yesterday was Nathan's birthday, but we had to postpone his party to next week. Hopefully we will all be well by then.


Heather Jones said...

h my gosh that is so awful!! I had no idea it was that bad out there!! it was bad here but nothing like that I think I might have been a mess!!All those poor people I should have watched the news!! I am glad you are all ok!!!

Laurie said...

Don't you love living in Siberia?

The Gardner Family said...

This had to be one of the biggest storms in the history of Utah. I was up at Kohlers trying to make it home. Highway was a white out. I couldn't see. It took me 2 hours from american fork. I was probably one of that last ten cars they let through Traverse. I feel for you! So crazy.

Jamie said...

Oh, I feel for you! I was on the road that day too. I wish you would have just come to our house rather than making that big loop around Lehi! At one point my two older boys were home alone for 2 hours while I was trying to get home. The road along the golf coarse was so windy that we were only going 3 miles an hour! It sure is hard to see when the snow is going horizontal isn't it? It took John until 8:15 for the bus to finally get to the off ramp. It didn't even pull into the bus stop for fear of getting stuck. They just had to walk from the freeway off ramp!

Darin and Jen said...

My mom told me about the story of the children stranded at school. I had no idea that you were one of the families!! What an experience, one I'm sure you won't forget soon. Aspen thought it would be pretty cool to have a "sleepover" at school. Doesn't sound so cool to me!! My brother and sister-in-law are moving to highland, and they said that is where their Daughter will start Kindergarten. Do you remember Chance (Darin's brother)? Your paths may cross!