Tonawanda News

January 9, 2014

KEPPELER: Life, in 30 minutes

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I am not a winter weather wimp.

I suppose that sounds a little like I’m protesting too much, but it’s true. I grew up in Cattaraugus County, where the temperature is routinely 10-20 degrees colder than it is at my Town of Tonawanda home (and I love to say I’m one of the only people around who moved to Buffalo to get away from the snow). I don’t like the cold, really, but I’ll grumble a bit, bundle up and get on with it if I have to go outside. I’ve driven in snow, ice, freezing rain, fog and other assorted meteorological phenomenon, and while I don’t like it, I do it.

So the whole “blizzard” thing Tuesday didn’t faze me much. I mean ... really? It’s the Buffalo area. It snows, we deal, life goes on. I have no problem at all with the schools closing these few days due to the temperature (although my kids are going NUTS at this point), but mostly, it’s just part of the experience.

So that morning, I got up, doubled checked the weather reports (and didn’t worry much, because we’re not in the Southtowns), bade my restless children and resigned husband farewell and drove to work, dealing with a bit of snow in the town that vanished in favor of blue skies as soon as I cleared the I-290 overpass. This is a blizzard? Big deal.

I thought that for hours, until I saw the “no unnecessary travel in the Town of Tonawanda” alert much later on Facebook (work purposes, honest) and peeked out the newsroom window. There was a bit of snow blowing around and the blue in the sky had vanished, but otherwise it didn’t seem so awful. Still, I had finished the portion of duties I couldn’t take home, so I bundled up a bunch of paperwork and myself and headed for the car.

My blase attitude lasted for maybe a block south on River Road, when visibility dropped considerably. OK, maybe this wasn’t going to be that much of a breeze, after all. Still, I could see the road, the lights, the other vehicles. I’d be fine.

(Side comment: People, it doesn’t matter if it’s technically daylight out. If you’re driving in conditions in which visibility is remotely poor and you notice you have to keep your eyes open for other vehicles’ lights ... maybe that should be a clue to put your own vehicle’s lights on? On this trek, I noticed three different cars and trucks without lights, which doesn’t sound like a ton unless you’re about to make a turn while hoping and praying that there’s nothing coming through the white. More on that later.)

Slowly, my little patch of traffic moved over the bridge and into the City of Tonawanda. It looked like my favorite Tim Hortons was closed. Maybe this was bad, I joked to myself.

Of course, that’s when things really did get worse.

Like a float in a really a slow parade, I followed a line of other vehicles down Main Street, watching lights, foot on the brake. By the time I paused to make my left turn at Main and Roosevelt, it was just a matter of squinting at the oncoming lights and hoping every other vehicle out there was using them. I passed the library and crept onward.

By the time I made Delaware, it was a white-out. I couldn’t see a thing at times. It was just foot-on-the-gas and keep moving. The wind whipped the snow around and howled and I peered through the windshield and kept my little car in the tracks of those that had gone before it.

What goes through your head in times like these? I know the lion’s share of my brain was concentrating on the road and the other cars — it’s been more than 24 hours as I write this and I can still picture every portion of the drive — but I know I just kept repeating to myself “Just get me home.” I don’t know that it was praying precisely — though I can’t say it wasn’t — I just wanted it to be over. 

Eventually, making that last left turn was a leap of faith and then I was on my street. Soon, I pulled into the driveway, floundered to the front door, kicked the snow off my boots and staggered inside. It was warm. My kids yelled, “Mommy!” My husband asked if I was OK.

And that’s when I discovered I was shaking. Badly, really. I sat and shook for a good five minutes before picking myself up, hugging my kids and heading back to our home office area with a mug of hot cocoa. 

My drive home usually takes me about 10 or 15 minutes. On Tuesday, it took 30. That’s not much, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a 30 minutes that felt a heck of a lot longer. I found out later that the travel advisory changed to a travel ban, then moved into the City of Tonawanda and NT. I couldn’t agree more. 

It’s the Buffalo area. It snows, we deal — but there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe while doing that.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.