New York, New York
Isolated by both their transient working lifestyle and technology, there is one event that brings truckers together — the weather.
The Farmer’s Almanac predicted a winter smothered in snow, and it is coming to pass. Two-thirds of the nation, extending south of the Mason Dixon line, has seen snow or has snow on the ground. Two consecutive weekends, the continental US has experienced winter storms — named Dion and Electra by The Weather Channel its recent policy aimed at captivating viewers — stretching between 1,100 and 1,500 miles.
Last weekend, Saturday, December 7, dozens of drivers spent the weekend huddled around the television. The Weather Channel beamed in reports of the octopus-like storm that originated in Mexico and unleashed its wrath, ice, near Pecos, Texas on I-10, pummeled Dallas, brought freezing temperatures to Houston then marched cross Arkansas, dipped down to Tennessee, through Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and fizzled out past upstate New York after leaving a mountain of snow.
“My husband, he had his cherry bust early when we did two years out of North Dakota,” Mrs. Over-the-Road told me, describing their nightmarish drive from Roanoke, Virginia to Pennsylvania. Maryland was the worst, she said, reporting more trucks than she could count in the ditch.
The highway carnage began in Pecos, TX with a 10-truck pileup and fire and closed the Interstate. Ice was the villain. And no doubt, some driving too fast and following too close.
We parked on Friday after delivering in Allentown. MacGyver wanted a load. Me? Call it women’s intuition. My gut said we should sit this weekend out.
Besides, we had Christmas lights to string and we were enjoying a trucker coincidence. One of the best things about life on the road is unexpectedly running into a friend. It always amazes us how close we come to our driver friends while we crisscross the nation.
In Louisiana, before the storm, our friend Dave from Ohio, literally passed me on I-10. I thought I recognized his truck as it drifted by. Eyeing our conestoga, then our storage box, he realized that the truck was ours and MacGyver’s phone rang. We stopped 15 minutes down the road at a Petro and discovered we were delivering not far from each other. On Friday we found ourselves at the same truck stop. We all took the weekend off.
We watched east and north. In Texas and Oklahoma drivers were stuck on the Interstate for hours. By Sunday, the Virginia DOT was warning of an “historic” ice situation. The weather was moving up I-81.
Drivers who chose to sit out the weather were making use of the down time. The line formed early in the laundry room. I was in first at 7AM. A steady stream followed.
Solo drivers took advantage of face-to-face conversations, picking over the forecast, bellyaching about freight and rates and complaining about a trucker bad habit of following “too damn close on the cruise control.”
One who was loaded in New Hampshire was delivering near Roanoke, Virginia.
“I’m waiting,” he told me. “It’s not good out there.” He knows snow, he said, because based in South Dakota but he didn’t like the ice. Later in the day, a 50 vehicle pile up on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
In the last week feet, not inches, of snow has fallen in upstate New York. Lake effect snow. Heavy snowfalls will continue until the lakes freezes over. They are still waiting. The Mid-Atlantic states saw snow too.
This weekend more snow is crawling across the country, heavy snow accumulation is expected today in Pennsylvania, upstate New York and the New England states. In Boston 12 to 18 inches of snow is forecast.
Since we’re all in this together, 18-wheelers and four-wheelers, and we all want to go home in one piece without an insurance claim number.
- Clear your back window, so you can see what’s behind you.
- Wipe off your tail lights so people can see you and know when you brake.
- Turn your headlights on. Headlights are not just for seeing, they let others see you.
- Leave plenty of space. Following too close and driving too fast is a leading cause of crashes.