The 1,200 miles it takes to get from Maryville to Provo, Utah, is always an adventure during the winter months.
Whether it’s the cold, the dark, the snow, the ice or the wind, or all of them combined, I-80 has provided me with some very fun-filled and memorable trips over the years.
At any moment, the interstate can close without warning. You’ve seen the signs, the ones that say Road Closed When Flashing. Return to Evanston or Cheyenne or wherever.
Knowing all of this has never stopped me from going, though. So when my husband and I decided to head out with our kids for Thanksgiving in 2001, it was just another trip. We’d done it before with no problems – a little slowing down while driving through horizontal snow blowing amid the 40 mph wind – but nothing major.
I like to think that whenever we travel, we’re always prepared. We generally pack things like flashlights, candles, blankets, food and water, and on this trip, we had packed toys and extras for the kids.
But on our return trip home, we definitely were not ready for what was awaiting us in Nebraska.
It had been snowing all throughout Wyoming. Then it iced, and as we left Cheyenne and headed across the state line, it started snowing again. And it was blowing hard, all over the road.
We were going dreadfully slow, it was extremely dark and we were noticing more and more cars slide off into the median. We decided to get off the interstate at the next possible exit, which happened to be Kimball, Nebraska – home to a Super 8 and a Burger King. And that was about it.
We checked into the motel for the night and soon learned the interstate had been shut down.
So we were stuck. 502 miles from Maryville.
The storm was so bad and it was so cold that we didn’t venture out much, staying put in that room for three days.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is that at that time, Hunter was two years old and Hannah was 14 months. A baby and a toddler in a 20’ X 16’ room for three days. Enough said.
The interstate finally re-opened, and thankfully, we were able to make it safely home. It was an experience we’ll never forget.
None of us think that emergencies or disasters can or will happen to us, until they do. We didn’t. I had traveled along that stretch of road during the winter and had seen some pretty crazy things, but they had never been quite that bad.
Most of the time, things happen when we least expect it. Tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, power outages. No matter what the emergency, simple preparation can mean a great deal.
One year after Hurricane Katrina, a TIME magazine poll reported that fewer than one in five, or 16 percent, said they were prepared for a natural disaster or public emergency.
Half of the rest of those polled said they weren’t prepared because they didn’t live in an area at risk for disasters. The truth is, though, that 91 percent of Americans live in places at a moderate-to-high risk of disasters or emergencies.
In April of this year, a Harris Interactive online survey reported only seven percent of Americans have taken the necessary steps to be prepared.
Why not? Is it because we don’t have the time? Or do we think it will never happen to us? They can and do happen. It could be as big as a devastating hurricane or tornado. Or it could be something smaller, like a thunderstorm or ice storm knocking out your power.
Whatever the reason we haven’t gotten ourselves prepared before now, do it now, take the time. It’s really as simple as doing what the Red Cross suggests: make a plan, get a kit, be informed.
Some people laugh when I mention getting prepared for a terrorist attack, an earthquake or pandemic influenza. They think I’m crazy for believing that one of these days it just might happen.
But, people didn’t believe Noah, either, when he was building the ark.
I would much rather be laughed at now, and be dry, safe and well fed later, no matter what happens, just like Noah and his family.