The day started off with a smile.
Our teenager, Hunter, loaded up with other schoolmates early yesterday morning to attend the regional science fair 85 miles away in Jamestown, ND. The plan was for us to pick up Hunter following the science fair en route to his weekend basketball tournament in Minneapolis.
Unexpected weather set in early and Nathan and I decided to hit the road with the girls a few hours ahead of time.
The science fair school bus also left early with Hunter on it.
We were in contact with him via mobile phones and planned on meeting alongside the highway to have him to continue on with us while the bus would travel home.
As the temperature dropped from 36F to 32F the slush/ snow started to turn into a sheet of ice. The wind was blowing 50-60 mph. It was insane and our four wheel vehicle was sliding. Nathan made the call as we crept along at 20-40 mph that we had to go home. If we only had 80 miles to drive we could have kept going. But our final destination was 400 miles away.
By the minute the conditions worsen.
I had watched and listened to the weather report early yesterday morning. This was a surprise and not forecasted. It was suppose to be windy but not this weather. We crept along towards home. I know I wasn’t the only mom who prayed and prayed for our school bus to arrive safely back at the school.
I was overjoyed when our friend who is also the science teacher pulled the bus right up next to the school about an hour after we arrived back to our house. I was waiting to pick up Hunter and had him go invite one of our family friends, Anna, and her kids to come to our house rather than them drive the 4 miles into the country to their house. At this point anybody trying to leave town was getting stuck, sliding off the road or turning around right outside of town and coming back into town.
But finding our house in a hayfield not too far from the school wasn’t as easy I thought it would be. With our window rolled down, Hunter led me into our driveway in the above conditions.
We were thankful to be accounted for while being safe and warm. We learned from social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and cell phones of people stranded all over our area. Our area school buses left early and yet one was stuck and stranded for over 7 hours before being reached and brought to an area farm. Near a town 30 miles from us, two area school buses collided with injuries. We heard of accidents across the area combined with local friends being stranded all from text messages, Facebook and Twitter. I kept with local teachers, Mrs. Dalke and Mrs. Turner’s Facebook status updates to learn of the safety of students. I learned my friend Sara’s cousin was stuck just north of us on the interstate and my friend Karen’s son and husband were stranded also along I-94.
It was amazing to see how social media connected during a surprise blizzard on our very remote prairie.
I watched my church friend, Rebecca’s video on Facebook as she was stranded with her dad. I read my friend Val’s blog about her out checking her cows and how weather conditions were improving because the cows eating. We often checked the North Dakota Department of Transportation road report maps that told us even traveling east from our house the main highway was closed along with every major interstate across the state. By 6AM, Hunter was standing bedside begging Nathan to please let’s go to Minneapolis for his 3PM game. But with roads closed, we stayed home.
Upon learning 800 stranded motorists were picked up throughout the night by the ND Highway Patrol and National Guard, we again were so grateful to be home.
The blizzard that caught us off guard amidst our science fair and road trip has me grateful for all the hearty prairie dwellers of North Dakota who get into their four wheel drive tractors to find the stranded motorists near their home. They took in friends, family and strangers for warmth, food and a place to rest while the storm raged.
And living on the very rural prairie, I am so grateful for social media outlets that connected stranded travelers via their smart phones to alert authorities and report to family and friends via mobile Facebook and Twitter. Social media wasn’t a “social” activity for thousands last night across North Dakota. It was a life line.