Thursday, January 27, 2011

Carmagedon 2011

Queue the theme song to Gilligan's Island.


I set out thinking my commute home would be over 2 hours, 2.5 hours at the most. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be stuck with thousands of other DC Metro residents in the worst rush hour ever. I've heard it called "Commute from Hell" and "Carmagedon", whatever you call truly sucked.

My commute time took me 9 hours and I was home a little after 3 a.m.. While pretty horrible, I gotta say it wasn't as bad as others. My neighbor who left Tyson's corner at 3:30 made it home at 2 a.m....almost about 10.5 hours. There were people who got stuck on GW Parkway for 14 hours. My mom told me she couldn't imagine how terrible it was and she said she felt bad that I was all by myself. I told her I was thankful I was all by myself. While my situation was bad, I can't imagine being in the shoes of a parent trying to pick up a child at day care...or a parent who was able to get the kids only to get stuck in the traffic with no food, water or bathrooms.

Five hours into Carmagedon

Lets just say, I had a lot of time on my hands to think about things. The big questions this morning in the DC area was "How could this have been avoided?" Did OPM screw up allowing the federal government to close 2 hours early...essentially releasing the hounds all at the same time? Could public safety done a better job? Could radio and news outlets have done a better job?

Six hours into Carmagedon

This storm had been forecast since last week. For at least 3 days we'd been hearing about it. My first question, they kept saying it would hit during evening rush hour. There is kind of a big window that 3 p.m.? 5 p.m? 7 p.m.? I would have liked to have had a better idea of when they thought we'd get hit with the storm. While it was chilly and rainy all day, it really didn't seem like it was going to be that bad at noon, or even at 2:30 p.m. But an hour later, the snow was coming down. If it looked like it was going to hit us hard early into the commute, maybe an earlier release was in order.

6+ Hours of Carmagedon

What I'd have liked to have known was just how bad the roads really were at 6 p.m. when I finally left the building.

O.k. let me back up a bit. Why did I wait until 6 p.m. First, I'll be honest, it was Yankee bravado "This isn't going to be that bad...everyone here in DC are wimps" Second, cars were backed up in the parking lot for an hour. My co-workers watched one car for 45 minutes before it was out of the lot and then stuck in traffic on the road. My reasoning...if I leave at 6, most people will be home and the roads won't be so bad. That reasoning has worked for me in the past.

7 hours into Carmagedon

Even when told that visibility was a quarter of a mile and the snow was falling at a rate of an inch or two and hour...I thought, well, they've known about this and have been pre-treating the roads and they have plows out...the roads should be drivable. This is when my Yankee-ness should have kicked in and said, "This is DC, Virginia and Maryland, not Buffalo or Northern Ohio."

I think the weather service should have sent out a "shelter in place" command for everyone who hadn't gotten on the roads yet....kind of like they do when a tornado has been sited and is heading your way.

The next thing I found lacking for this rush hour...traffic reporters weren't telling us what was going on. I was stuck for 2 hours on the toll road, listening to the radio and there was no mention of the two buses and three trucks and numerous cars that wiped out two exits ahead of me. That would have been valuable information.

In the case of the toll road, there is the airport access road that is accessible from the toll road. There should have been an announcement for people to bail onto the access road. Police should have prevented people from entering onto blocked roads and directed them to alternate routes.

Preparation, or lack there of for DC Metro area drivers. We had warning, days of warning. I made sure to fill my gas tank on Tuesday night and fill my windshield wiper fluid. They were telling us it was going to be bad for our evening commute, so why risk running out of gas?

Common sense, or lack there of for DC Metro area drivers. Don't abandon your car in a travel lane. Come on people! If you find you are running out of gas, why not get over to the shoulder as quickly as you can BEFORE running out...or at least be in the right lane so you could chug onto the shoulder on gas vapors. And all of you cool, wealthy people with those snazzy, rear wheel drive, low to the ground sports cars...why drive those to work when they are calling for 5 inches of snow during evening rush. Or, why didn't you leave before it started snowing? Those cars can't hand a dusting of snow, let alone 5 inches. I saw so many sports cars parked on the shoulders of the roads or in ditches off exit ramps when going home.

Courtesy, or lack there of from DC Metro area drivers. So....the light is about to turn red as indicated by the Yellow light that always precedes it and there is no room for you to make it across the intersection....don't go through and block the intersection for the people on the cross road. Oh...and when everyone has to go right or left to get around one of the abandoned cars in the center travel lane, do the zipper thing, don't be a jerk and not let people in...they are going back into the center lane as soon as they get around the abandoned car. I'll confess, I flipped a beyotch off who wouldn't let me "zip" in.

My take away. Even though I live in the DC metro area, from now on, I am going to prepare a winter emergency kit. If they ever forecast five inches of snow during evening rush, I'm packing a blanket and pillow and plan on staying at work.

Things I'm extremely grateful for are: my Subaru Forester, it handled so well in the weather conditions from 4 inches of snow, to ice; my Eton emergency radio - - so nice when the power was out; my smart phone and the ability to post updates to FB last night; my friends who stuck with me on FB until I got home; and my wood burning fireplace.


Jeanne said...

Wow these videos and blog were just amazing to me. DO you realize you could have probably walked home in that time? I can't even imagine coming off work and spending all that time in the car. Hope they figured out that problem.

A comment on the plus side. Looks like you have some really cute kitties.


great week-end