Tuesday, January 27, 2004

on the skids

At first, I didn't think much of reports that a major storm was going to hit SW Ontario yesterday. There had already been a few "Chicken Little" storms that had passed through. I took a day off work to leisurely make my way back to Toronto after spending the weekend in A'burg for my aunt's 70th birthday. If it snowed, I had time to play with.

Driving wasn't too bad going through Essex County. The back roads were drivable, despite some drifting snow around Woodslee. Got onto 401 at Comber, with an immediate taste of things to come - at Tilbury, the westbound lanes were backed up due to a jacknifed truck blocking the road.

Drifting snow dominated Chatham-Kent, with the odd vehicle in the ditch. I was carefully, rarely going the posted speed. Most drivers were equally cautious. Figured I'd reach London around 1-1:30 and grab a late lunch. Crossing into Elgin County, the drifting stopped and the road appeared fine. Remained cautious, stayed at or below 100. Strong winds rocked the car, making my stomach flip. Just before London, noticed the number of vehicles at the side of the road was going up.

Then the fun began.

Past Hwy 4, I hit a patch of black ice. The car skidded. I tried to regain control, but that only made it swing wildly. Not knowing what was behind or beside me, figured it was better to veer the car into the ditch on the right than the median on the left. My heart felt like it was going to explore. For a second, I felt like the car was airbound. It ended up doing a 180 before coming to a stop.

I wasn't far from the road, but I landed in a bank deep enough that the car wasn't going to go anywhere. Then I noticed a van further down the road, which must have hit the same patch earlier. Hopped out to check for any damage. A car stopped and asked if they could call a tow truck or the police.

10 minutes after I flew off the road, a van with a horse trailer skidded into the median. It didn't tip over, so it moved on. The police showed up and called CAA. Stayed in the cruiser for awhile until another motorist stopped to report a major accident before Hwy 4. Went back to the car, turned on the heat and read the paper, figuring a tow truck would arrive soon.

An hour later, no tow. Instead, my eyes popped out when a trailer tipped over a hundred feet from the car. The cops came back and helped him out. I checked the status of my tow - the dispatcher said the call had gone through, but the large number of accidents was responsible for a 3-4 hour delay. Back to the car.

The long wait was eased when heavy-equipment movers arrived to right the trailer. A CFPL truck showed up to shoot footage of the trailer and my car. The reporter was disappointed when told none of the 3 vehicles in the ditch were not part of a chain reaction. Just as they wrapped up, my tow showed up, 2-1/2 hours after becoming acquainted with the side of 401. The car was pulled out quickly, then the tower blocked traffic so I could turn the right way. This didn't make the cops happy, even though they'd closed off a lane to right the trailer.

Took a few minutes out to wolf down a gyro at White Oaks Mall before deciding to continue on or stay in London for the night. The latest forecast made the former imperative, since conditions were expected to deteriorate overnight. Hopped back on 401, but felt nervous. The road was slippery and there were impatient trucks. I couldn't wait to get on 403, which sounded trouble-free. The choice was made for me when traffic backed up right at 403.

No problems through Hamilton, other than snow started falling. Hopped onto old Hwy 2 at Ancaster to avoid any problems going down the Mountain on 403 (figured it would be scary). QEW was fine until the Ford plant, where a familiar backup appear. I veered off onto Royal Windsor Drive, into a white oblivion.

Plows had barely touched the surface streets. Since more accidents were reported on the QEW/Gardiner, figured I'd stay on Royal Windsor, then head into the city on Lakeshore. Light traffic and a long string of green lights eased things, but conditions deteriorated rapidly. Blinded by drifting snow at Humber Bay. Some dork decided to form their own lane at Parkside, causing me to nearly smash into them. Cabs made the trek up Yonge frightening.

10 hours after setting out, I was home. After a nerve-induced...well, you don't need to know..., I let out a loud sigh of relief.

The car will not move for awhile. Hello TTC.

Note: I tried finding London links on the storm, but CFPL's website ("the new PL") is worse than useless and the London Free Press had zilch.

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