Saturday, January 20, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
When I woke up I was glad to hear I had only been snoring a little bit, but I felt bad that once again I had fallen asleep on Jenn's floor. I decided I should get home to bed.
I got in my car and started driving. I got about 1 and a half blocks away and suddenly the car stopped moving. I was very confused because nothing seemed to be wrong, but the car just wouldn't move. Sure the road was extremely icy, but I couldn't move forwards or backwards at all. Out of habit I checked the emergency brake was disengaged and it was, but it seemed different. It felt like it might be frozen in the engaged position. I decided to just sit there for a while with the engine running. I was hoping that it would loosen up as the car heated up. I put on my hazard lights and just sat there in the middle of the road.
People kept driving by slowly, looking in my windows, but I just smiled and waved them on. After five minutes or so I tried jiggling the emergency brake, and this time I was convinced it was completely disengaged. I tried moving, but I still couldn't budge. I got out to check if I had driven into some kind of concave surface in the icy road that was too slippery to get out of. Instead I saw that I had a completely flat tire.
The temperature was about -30 outside, and I wasn't sure what I should do. I wanted to get my car off the road as soon as possible. I knew Jenn and Dave would help me out so I called them, thinking that we'd either change the flat, or push my car off the road.
Jenn came out to me and told me that Dave will change my tire in the morning, and that she can give me a ride home. By the time she got there though I had already decided that the road was too slippery to push my car into a suitable parking spot, and that it might be easier to just change the tire and drive it away under it's own power.
I had the spare and the jack out of the hatch already, so Jenn and I loosened the nuts on the flat. I was trying to remember how to position the jack when Jenn went to get her husband to help me. A minivan pulled up and the driver asked if I was ok. I asked him if he knew anything about changing a tire. He said that he did and so I asked if I had the jack in a good place or not. I expected him to come out and tell me if it was ok or not, but he totally took over the job. I felt bad that I was taking his help, but grateful that he was willing to give it. To be honest, changing a tire scares me at the best of times because I am always worried about the car falling off the jack. Changing a tire at -30 in the middle of the night on a surface of compacted snow seemed like a perfect recipe for the jack to slip out, so I was glad for his experience.
It wasn't long before two more good samaritans showed up. A man in a 4x4 truck came to help, and a moment later Dave also showed up. Dave wanted to finish the job for me, but the other two stuck around anyway. It was the kind of weather where even if only one person can do the work and things seem to be going fine, it is a probably good idea to have some backup around - just in case. Maybe four people changing one tire is overkill, but I am really glad they were all there.
It wasn't too long before my tire was changed. I said my thank you's and goodbye's and got inside my car. It was toasty warm after running for so long, but not warm enough to cancel out how cold I was. Even now, over three hours later, I am still cold. It is very late, and I should be going to bed, but I'm going to have a hot bath instead.
From my trip to 7-11 earlier, I knew that to stay warm in that weather you would need to be bundled up like an astronaut. The people I saw from my balcony though were out there with bare heads and hands. I decided to get back out there and help out.
When I got outside I saw that I wasn't the only one there to help. There was a crew of about 5 or 6 already assembling, ready to help out. There were also a lot more than just the 5 stuck vehicles. I didn't count, but the number was closer to ten cars and one school bus. At this point the school bus was blocking the entire street, so there wasn't much we could do until it was gone. I asked the driver if he needed help and he said a truck was coming to pull them out. In the meantime we all just waited... the 5 or 6 helpers, the drivers in the stuck vehicles, and the drivers of the 20 or so more that were all waiting patiently for their turn driving through the deep snow.
By the time the truck had pulled the bus out, the number of helpers grew to 15 or 20. Men and women from ages 20 to 50 were out there helping out on the most miserable day I've ever seen. We even had one man who looked 70 or 80 who came out to watch. He stood there in the incredible wind and snow and fridig temperatures as if it didn't bother him one bit. I imagined he may have been a farmer like my grandfathers - a life that was spent outdoors almost every day, no matter what the weather. He wasn't able to get in there and push and he knew it, but I bet he wished he could.
Our group split up as cars started moving down the street. Some followed the first cars we had freed up in case they got stuck again and the rest of us stayed helping cars get through the bottle neck. We'd line up 4 at a time behind each vehicle and we'd push as hard as we could. Invariably as we pushed one of us would have our feet slide out from under us just as the vehicle managed to pull ahead and we'd end up laying face down in the snow. After about an hour the road was clear, and I was covered head to toe in snow. I was exhausted, terribly cold, and my face hurt from the cold, but I felt great.
Five Stuck Vehicles
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
And a couple hours later...
And a couple more hours later...
I decided to go to 7-11 on my lunch break today. It was going to be like an adventure. I bundled up in all my warm clothes and headed out.
When I left it was -19°C. Normally at that temperature my clothes should have kept me warm, but the wind was absolutely fierce. It was blowing from the east at 70 kph and it had no trouble penetrating anything I was wearing (I didn't know it at the time, but the weather network was reporting a windchill of -36°C.) When I got to the corner and headed north I thought I'd be in the shelter of a long row of three storey apartment buildings, but I was wrong. The wind was swirling around in one big snow-eddie and each snowflake stung as it hit my cheeks.
When I got to 8th St I knew the 7-11 was close. I just needed to cross the street and a parking lot... but despite that I couldn't even see the building. Even though traffic was light, I was extra cautious as I crossed the street because my coat is white, and by now I had snow caked all over me, so my toque, mitts, scarf and jeans where all white as well. I like to joke that I am the size of a female Sasquatch, well, today I really did look like an abomidable snowwoman.
By the time I got inside the store my eyelids were freezing shut and the tiny slit of exposed skin between my scarf and toque felt like it was frozen. I warmed up for a couple minutes as I bought myself a diet coke, and then I headed back out. Going home was easier, because the wind wasn't straight into my face, but the snow was still blowing hard and just as deep (overall, the snow is a foot deep everywhere, except where drifts have formed, and there it was sometimes over two feet deep). In fact the snow was blowing around so much, the footprints I made on the way there were already gone.
By the time I got home I was out of breath. I felt like I had been running on my treadmill instead of walking. It took me 37 minutes to walk a total of 4 blocks. It was worth it though just for the experience of being out in this blizzard, and of course for the diet coke.
Here are some stills from my balcony:
Another hour later...
Saturday, January 06, 2007