You know it is bad when a tweet like this appears in your feed.
“Statewide PENNDOT update. Speed Restrictions. The speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph throughout PA.”
Twitter users received that message Nov. 15 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation when a powerful snowstorm blasted into the state.
Drivers experienced the pounding weather firsthand.
Area roadways went from snow dusted to covered to dangerously slippery in what seemed like a flash.
Roads and highways closed.
Local snow totals included 7.2 inches at Lehigh Valley International Airport and New Tripoli; 7 inches in Coopersburg and North Whitehall; and 8 inches in Bethlehem and Upper Milford Township, according to local media reports.
Traffic was at a standstill in many places, exacerbated by disabled vehicles, nasty weather conditions and darkening skies.
Einstein, the camel, appeared on Route 309 and was soon an Internet, local and national news sensation, a fish-out-of-water sentinel on the side of the road as snow fell.
Some, including yours truly, opted to get off the road and seek shelter to wait out the storm in an eatery in Emmaus.
Since my first “real” job at a local Wendy’s, I had not spent so much time at a fast food restaurant nor eaten as many hot french fries in one sitting.
And, like the snow and the fries, friendliness was in abundance.
One driver chatted with another about her car — not a casualty of an accident, but of a blown radiator. Her sympathetic listener shared stories of how he once owned the same make of car and how he enjoyed driving it.
Another traveler shared with me pictures of her son’s vacation in a national park until one of her other sons called to check on her whereabouts.
An employee at the restaurant and his family waited for a ride from a friend who drove an SUV and offered to brave the roads to get the family home. And when he arrived, he also agreed to add to his passenger list another employee who was left stranded when public bus service halted due to the weather.
Drivers arrived at the restaurant with stories of residents along traffic-clogged streets leaving their warm homes to offer bottled water to those stopped in traffic.
As news of his appearance spread on social media and news feeds, we chatted about Einstein’s experience with winter weather, speculating on his reaction to snow. We charged our phones. We shared stories of our circuitous unsuccessful travels on our destination routes that usually took minutes but stretched into hours. We talked about the winter ahead, attempting forecasts based on the soggy summer now behind us. We quizzed newly arriving travelers about road and weather conditions as they shook off snow, stamped their feet and made their way to the counter to order their own french fries, burger and hot chocolate or coffee.
And we reached a consensus. We really weren’t ready for winter.
For instance, the collapsible shovel usually in my trunk for just such an occasion was in the laundry room at home. I removed it to vacuum the trunk during the summer. Some of my fellow diners were without window scrapers.
On her website, Martha Stewart, icon of the perfectly kept home, car, office, farm, etc., recommends preparing two emergency kits for car travel – one for the trunk and one for the cabin, or passenger area, of the car. The trunk kit should include, among other things, jumper cables, an inflated spare tire, a jack, a bottle of windshield wiper fluid, sand or cat litter to spread under tires for traction, a reflective safety vest and reflectors to display along the road at an accident. Stewart further suggests drivers keep an escape hammer to break a window if trapped in a car, a flashlight and fresh batteries, a first-aid kit and a blanket. Those who spent the night in their cars on closed highways Nov. 15 might suggest stocking more than one blanket.
Nonperishable snacks, bottled water, extra clothing and gloves, a cellphone and charger are recommended by PennDOT on its website, which also includes tips for winter driving and other seasonal travel advice as well as a checklist of items to stow in an emergency travel kit.
When I was learning to drive, a neighbor, a professional truck driver, advised me to watch the weather forecast for snow and keep as full a gas tank as possible during the changeable winter months. Also, he said, make sure your headlights work.
And may I add — have enough cash for a large order, or two, of french fries.
As this issue was prepared, Winter Storm Bruce smothered parts of the Midwest, knocking out power and stranding travelers trying to get home from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
East Penn Press