By the time the first snowflakes appeared about 11AM on Friday, we almost felt sorry for them. They were met by such overwhelming firepower from the local highway snow removal teams, they didn’t have a chance. But they kept coming. Like soldiers at the Somme they threw themselves on the barbed wire. They took the salt! And their comrades- in-arms kept coming.
By 3PM, the highway crews were still in charge…giving themselves thumbs up when they passed each other. The roads were wet, but clear. Crews laid down salt as the snowflakes – more numerous than the stars in the heavens or the dollars in the federal deficit – kept falling to ground. But by 4PM a white coating began to appear on the road. Temperatures were falling and the snow was beginning to stick.
Snow built up slowly…then more quickly. The salt trucks were running out of time and ammunition. And by 6PM the battle turned. Now, the snow came heavily – and stuck. The road crews switched to using their blades. But it was no use. They were outnumbered and outgunned. The snow kept coming. First the side roads were lost to a thick blanket of snow. Then, the major roads were lost too. Finally, US I-95 – the nation’s main East Coast artery – was in enemy territory.
We drove down I-95 about 7PM. We had picked up Maria at Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore. She came out dressed like a movie star…in a wool coat with fur collar and cuffs. The cab drivers stared as she got in the pick-up and gave her father a kiss on the cheek. Then, we were off.
The highway was a total mess by that time. There were casualties on both sides of the road…abandoned vehicles, cars stuck in ditches, tow trucks and rescue crews trying to get people back on the road. We had taken the precaution of loading some cement blocks in the back of the truck. It slipped a few times, but it never slid off the road. You couldn’t tell the road from the shoulder. There were no lanes…and little traffic. We just tried to stay away from other drivers…and steer our pick-up in the tracks of the big truck in front of us.
By 8PM the snow was master of the field. The road crews admitted defeat. There was not a single road in all the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area that was safely passable. They were beaten. Radio announcements told civilians to get off the roads and stay off…until the snow removal troops could regain control of the situation.
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