Yesterday was an exercise in patience. To put it lightly.
The forecast in Portland called for rain to move in late in the afternoon with snow possible at higher elevations and nothing that would accumulate on the valley floor (Portland Metro area). Around 3:00PM some people were saying "it's snowing". Sure enough, my coworkers and I were sooner peering out the windows. At first it could barely be called "snow" but within 20 minutes it was coming down pretty hard. No one though much of it since the temp was about 36 when it all started – but it was dropping as fast as the snow.
Earlier in the year I had given up my SUV in attempt to save money and bought an older 1991 car. A car that had rear wheel drive. Anyone who has driven in snow or ice with rear wheel drive knows what a challenge it can be – especially in a city like Portland where they really don't take care of winter roads well (it at all).
Traffic was pretty slow but moving when I got on the freeway for my 14 mile drive home. Christina had left at 3:15 from near where I work and was have a miserable time on the roads. I soon learned why as I got closer to crossing the river and traffic was slowing to a crawl. Actually, I think someone crawling would have moved faster. If ever there had been a day to run home – this would have been it. Who knew that I could run home 14 miles faster than I could drive?
As I listened to weather and traffic reports on the radio, things were getting more and more grim. Roads were starting to close by the authorities or just by virtue of too many cars spun out and/or stalled on hills, ramps, bridges, etc.
The drive up onto the I5 bridge crossing the Willamette was an exercise in winter driving skills. I would of had no problem in all wheel or even front wheel drive but I had no such luck. I had planned to take the first exit after the bridge and maybe wait things out for a bit – or at least go to the bathroom. In order to do that I had to get into the right lane. Most of the lanes on the bridge slanted to the left and being in the right lane was a challenge to say the least. Several cars had already given up and I almost did after nearly spinning around full circle. I righted my car and kept moving, all the while wondering how I would possible make it all the way home. My first slide had started when I wasn't even moving my car! It was a mess to say the least.
The bridge provided a respite since it was covered and protected from the snow and ice. I spent about an hour on this bridge waiting to cross and dreading the downhill section on the other end.
My fears well justified when we emerged from the sheltered bridge and I immediately went from the right lane to the left lane – sideways! I stopped about 10 inches short of the cement wall and every time I tried to move forward my back end slide closer to the wall. When it was within a few inches I gave up and started looking for towing companies. Several calls later I realized a tow truck was not a real option since they were either done taking calls or 5-6 hours behind.
I sat there, unsure of my next action. I called Christina who was still on the road to tell her of my dilemma and then a guy in a truck came up alongside me and asked if I needed help. Yes! I told him. He and his buddy attempted to help get my car out of the predicament it was in. I asked him if he wanted to drive and he said "No – my wife would kill me if I wrecked a beemer". I didn't have the heart to tell him it was only a 1991. I managed to get my car forward a bit. Then a bit more. I could only move about 50 feet at a time before sliding back toward the wall. Even these guys were saying there was no way I'd get my car down the ramp so I pulled it all way the over to the right under an overpass. The shoulder there was only about 4' wide but I had no choice. It was way too dangerous to try further and I would have wrecked my car, someone else's or both. The guys were nice enough to give me a ride (mostly) home. Christina got home just after 8PM and picked me up at the store where the left me at 8:45PM. On our drive back home we saw TONS of cars that had slid off the road and a bus that slide into a car smashing it into a tree. What a mess out there.
I closely followed the news, weather and traffic reports. I couldn't keep my car there forever. The news was not good, nor was the traffic report. Traffic was still at a standstill at 10PM and the temps were still hovering around 32-33 degrees. A warmup was needed before I could get my car off that bridge! We waited it out and after a short nap left shortly after midnight to pick up my car. By the time we got there around 12:45PM there was a cop and a tow truck that was loading my car.
I hopped out of the car and the cop asked if it was mine. I said yes and she said "why did you leave it here". I wanted to say – "look Einstein – why do you think I left it here? have you been outside at all tonight??" Seriously what the hell kind of question is that from Portland's finest? I also could have said "well if Portland had been out sanding the freeways then this bridge wouldn't have been covered in ice!". I had to pay $130 to the tow truck driver to get my car back and when I did I noticed a $70 negative present from the po-po on my windshield. How nice of them. Thank you Portland and mayor Sam Adams. I heard the mayor saying they were sanding and clearing the side streets first so the freeways could empty. Seriously? What kind of backwards ass thinking doesn't clear the major arteries first??
I will dispute my parking ticket and hopefully will get insurance reimbursement for my towing – but what a nightmare. Not much sleep. 5 hour commute and $200 in fees. This definitely goes down as the commute from hell. Even 30 years in Minnesota couldn't compare to this. The problem, aside from rear-wheel drive, is that Portland is more hilly and they do very very little to the streets during snow storms (and very few people here can actually drive well in snow). I can understand not plowing but I really don't understand not sanding.
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are calling for heavy rain. Better than snow? At least point it is!