Listening to all the stories of the huge winter storm back east brings back some memories of a couple interesting winter storms that our family experienced several years ago. We endured two vicious storms, back to back, but in different states and in different ways…..neither of which any of us care to experience again.
It was December of 2004. We had made a change of plans for our Christmas. Dad had just been diagnosed with liver cancer the month before, so we decided to make a trip home to Princeton, West Virginia for the holiday. We should have known it was going to be a strange trip because of what happened the evening before we left.
It was late in the afternoon and Gary was in our driveway, getting the topper put on our van. Suddenly a dilapidated old car zoomed into our driveway and screeched to a halt. Immediately there were probably 6 police and sheriff cars that surrounded our driveway and the front of our house. The officers jumped out and were all over that old car in nothing flat. Gary eased back into the garage and came in the house. We all watched from the windows as two or three people were taken from the car, frisked, handcuffed…..the whole nine yards, just like on television. Except this was in OUR driveway!
In the meantime, our neighbors all around were wondering what on earth was going on over at the Moore’s house. Several tried to walk up and question the officers, but were bluntly told to leave and go home! This made them even more curious and worried, of course. We were in the house still wondering what was going on outside. We were also fielding phone calls from neighbors as well as struggling to keep Aaron in the house. He wanted nothing more than to barge outside and find out exactly what all the excitement was about. We wanted nothing more than for him to settle down and to NOT go outside, where who knows what might have happened.
Finally, a police officer came to our door to tell us a little about what was going on. Apparently, for several days the police had been casing this guy’s mobile home about a mile up the road from us. He was a suspect in some sort of drug business. On that day, when he left his home, he soon realized that he was being followed. He turned into our neighborhood in an effort to lose the police. But our circle has no outlet, and when he realized that he was trapped, he pulled into our driveway and gave up. We had to wait for the culprits to be taken away and for the car to be impounded before we could once again work on getting the van packed and ready. It made for a long evening. And Aaron was very disappointed that he never got to go outside and personally be a part of all that huge excitement!
We climbed in the van very early that next morning in the bitter cold. Facing a 16 hour trip – at least – was not much fun for any of us. Our teenaged kids especially didn’t enjoy the very long drive. Little did any of us know what was ahead.
First of all, the van wouldn’t start. Could anything else go wrong, we thought? Like I said, little did we know. Gary and Andrew jumped the battery, and off we headed, praying that the van held up on our long trip.
Things went well for quite a few hours, but as we got closer to Kentucky we started noticing that cars headed in the other direction had snow on them. The more time that went by, and the more vehicles that went by in the other lanes of the interstate, confirmed to us that we were headed into snow. And soon it was not only snowing, but there was ice and there were strong winds. We were in the thick of it in Kentucky when we eventually came to a complete stop on I-24. As far as we could see in front of us, and as far as we could see behind us, there was nothing but huge trucks and many cars. No one was moving, not even an inch.
Eventually, people started getting out to walk around….to talk to other drivers and families….to see if anyone knew what was going on. But as the weather worsened, most people just stayed inside their vehicles and hunkered down. We waited, and waited, and waited…..for 10 hours! Gary would turn the van on for short periods in order to warm us up some. Thankfully, we had food and water and blankets. The guys were able to go outside to use the bathroom, but Andrea and I kindly declined their offer to hold up blankets to hide us….in the snow…and the ice…on the sloping bank outside the van. We joked about all that, and during that long night when all we heard was the pinging of snow and ice on the van, we would hear Aaron’s deep chuckle in the back seat, from under a blanket. He thought the bathroom business was pretty funny. And of all things, he handled the whole miserable experience very well. We were amazed at that! And thankful!
Traffic finally started moving again, very slowly at first. There were cars and trucks off the interstate all over the place, stuck in the snow and ice. It was a terrible mess. Gary got off at the first exit he could find. We were so thankful to see a gas station and convenience store. So were many other ladies who probably waited like Andrea and I did. We were all hurrying as fast as the snow and ice would allow us to get inside and stand in the bathroom line.
Our normally 16 hour trip to West Virginia took us around 30 hours! We still had a sweet time with family before soon heading back to Kansas. We had only been home in Wichita for several days when word of another winter storm came on the news. This storm was set to hit Wichita with some ice, but no one had any idea just how all the elements would come together to create a monster ice storm. Ice fell from the early afternoon of January 4 to the afternoon of the next day. You could stand on our porch and hear the sharp crack of branches falling from the trees, and the clink of limbs hitting each other in the wind.
We lost our power that first evening. Of course, it didn’t take long for us to be very cold. Andrew sat up in bed that next morning and realizing that we still didn’t have power, and that ice was still falling, he declared, “This has been the WORST two weeks of my life!!”
We laughed, but we certainly understood how he felt. We had all about had it with awful winter weather! Our power was off for five days. Thankfully, we had hot water. We cooked on our kerosene camp stove, we had lanterns, and life wasn’t all that bad. We played games and read books, and actually enjoyed some great family time together. Some friends had come over to hook us up to a generator on that fifth night. Just when they were finishing, our power came back on. I actually felt bad for all the work they had done only for us not to need the generator. But oh, when those lights came on and the heat started up, we were very happy indoor campers indeed!
We really had lots to be thankful for in the midst of all the craziness of those two weeks. We had a safe trip in the dangerous weather, time with family in West Virginia, safety in the ice storm, food to eat, warm clothes and lots of blankets, hot water, indoor bathrooms at home in the ice storm J, Aaron did well, and so much more.
And oh yes, none of us got arrested!! I won’t tell you how close we came a time or two.