Friday, October 20, 2006

Ice Capades

(Note: this marks my 200th blog entry. *sound of crickets chirping...*)

A "significant snowmaker" was inbound for the central and northern mountains of Colorado this past Tuesday, October 17, 2006. It was projected to drop 8-18" of snow in those locales, with lesser amounts in the foothills and Denver proper. It was due to arrive in the late afternoon-early evening, and do it's "make skiers happy dance" by Wednesday morning.

The last storm that was predicted -- a couple weeks prior -- was a bust: of the 8" of snow projected for the foothills, we got phfffft. Like many folks hereabouts, I was in a "show me" mode, and I'm not from Missouri.

So my doubts led me to violate several of my general rules when driving into the foothills during the winter months: (a) never on less than a half-tank of gas (b) never without my winter kit in the trunk (c) never without my spare parka in the trunk and (d) never without a spare change of clothes, in case I get stuck at work. I drove up on less than a half-tank, had none of my winter gear aboard, and I wore a light fleece, figuring the snow would arrive, if at all, when I was heading home. Besides, it was the "Friday" of my work week, and I wasn't worried. Eh.

I arrived at work at 0630. The boss arrived at 0900.

So did the snow.

Within an hour, there was a nice, wintery dusting of snow on the everything but the roads; they were just wet. It was almost a picture-perfect Christmas card scene, right outside the window.

By noon, the snow collecting on the patio outside of the deli was about 4" in depth; the snow was just starting to stick to the sections of roadway that weren't driven on. The outside thermometer remained hovering at 28 degrees.


By 2pm, I suggested to the boss that perhaps he oughta think about heading for his mandatory meeting at the corporate office in Lakewood (about 30 miles away), even though it was 2 hours later; one look out the window convinced him that this was sound advice.

The road surface was now all white. The outside thermometer now read 24 degrees. And the snowfall was intensifying.


At about 2:30p, the boss called me on his cell phone: the roads were crapola; there were accidents and vehicles every which way in the town below ours, and down the canyon highway (which he was gingerly trying to negotiate down), including a now broadside-to-the-road bus. His effort to use the new parkway route and I-70 came acropper: in trying to make the turn to go that route, his Jeep slid right on past the turnoff.

Now the fun begins, I knew from 10 years of winters on the hill. The "fun" being extremely subjective, of course.

With the early onset of the storm, and the sudden, rapid deterioration of the roads, the county and state road crews weren't Johnny-on-the-spot; in the city, they had too little to work with and too much to work on. Thus, the local road net went to sushi in a cathouse. A growing number of patrons were piling up in the lobby, patiently waiting for buses that were now either jammed up behind accidents and bottlenecks, or were the accidents and bottlenecks. Word came in via our radio scanner that there were several accidents on CO 119 below the town below us; a couple more in that town; and on the alternate route -- the new parkway to I-70 -- more vehicles were discovering that ice on a sloped road makes everything else slope too. Right into the guard rails or hillsides.

As 3pm came and went, the patience of patrons awaiting buses started wearing thin; having only the information I was getting over the scanner (Wrecks R, I was only able to advise repeatedly "stay in the lobby and we'll let you know when your bus arrives". That wasn't getting it done for a growing number of impatients.

So, even knowing what to expect when I did so, I called the respective bus companies to get "assessements of the situation":

One bus dispatcher: All service is suspended until further notice.
Another bus dispatcher: Beats me.

That was my kind of candor.

The third bus company dispatcher was a talking-points champion: our buses are running 15 minutes behind schedule.
Me: Did you say only 15 minutes?
Dispatcher: Yes, our buses are running 15 minutes behind schedule.
Me: Are you kidding me?
Dispatcher: Our buses are running 15 minutes behind schedule.
Me: Ma'am, your buses were 15 minutes behind schedule over an HOUR ago.
Dispatcher: I'm telling you what my boss is telling me: our buses are running 15 minutes behind schedule.
Me: Thanks for letting me know your boss is a fool.

I'll probably hear about that one, later.

Armed with this wonderful knowledge, I gathered the ever-growing throng together, and gave them the news: bus service is off-schedule due to accidents and road conditions (Duhhhh). Stay inside, and listen for announcements as conditions change and buses arrive. While the audible *groan* resonated around the lobby, I looked outside and wondered and how am I gonna deliver on this?

Simple: I had my dispatcher advise me of any changes in road access he heard on the scanner; then I parked myself out on the valet ramp, where I could see buses in-bound (once the roads re-opened), and identify which ones they were, so I could radio inside and have PA announcements made to the throng.

Clad only in my short sleeve golf shirt and Dockers, while it was now 23 degrees.

Good thing Mama couldn't see me now.

Of course, the impatiently-waiting patrons weren't the only ones wondering how and when they'd get home: my shift personnel and those of other departments, wondered too. Most of them were bus riders, and none of them wanted to stay on the hill after their shift. When one of my officers asked me about this (with it being his first winter on the hill), his face fell half a foot when I gave him the short answer: you're here until relieved. So goes it for all of us in Security. Including yours truly, "Friday Boy".

He didn't like that, but he was in full agreement with my concluding statement: sucks to be us on days like this.


And for the next two hours, I spent most of the time on the valet ramp, watching for ever-so-slowly arriving buses (as traffic opened up, closed up, opened up, etc), identifying which was which, and getting the right folks to the right buses, while getting snowed on, splashed on, and leaned on (more than a few were on walkers, canes, etc).

More than a couple of the elderly ladies -- with their maternal instincts in full bloom -- almost begged me to go inside and get a coat on. I'm keeping warm by keeping busy, I lied.

Moms never stop bein' moms.

One heart-stopper came when a school bus on the uphill lane across the street, began to slide toward the ravine with kids aboard. It stopped short (the driver managed to somehow guide it up against an obstruction short of the ravine), and the kids were off-loaded into our casino (normally a big no-no, but not in this case; we put 'em in the deli area, and local police began contacting their parents, while arrangements were made to get another bus to pick 'em up). Beat leavin' them outside, and no one in authority was arguing.

Finally -- approaching about 6pm -- the bus-blocked road across the street opened up, and our relief crew arrived, only an hour late. The lobby had largely been emptied of bus-riding patrons. And by 6:30pm, I had my loose ends tied up. Save for one: getting home myself.

My ride would normally be 40 minutes using the canyon, or 30 minutes using the parkway and I-70. The parkway/I-70 was out: there was a 30 car mosh pit at the Genesee exit, east bound, and right in my path. So it was the canyon option. But it would only take one vehicle to close it again.

Meantime, I was being asked to give rides down for three employees whose buses hadn't yet materialized. And, of course, all three needed different bus station drop-offs, none of which were close together.


So the normal 40 minute drive was 2 hours, when I finally parked at my place. But I was satisfied: all things considered, we'd done alright.

And the next morning, when I woke up with a low-grade fever and runny nose, I was also satisfied that I should have been better prepared, just like those two experienced moms said.

I am now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 October, 2006 06:07  
Blogger deni said...

Very descriptive. Reminded me so much of home, now tell me why I am homesick?

Oh and as a Jeep gal, I am not surprised about your boss sliding in his, they do have a tendency to do that.

But hey, they are fun!!

20 October, 2006 07:57  
Blogger Miss Cellania said...

Man! Thats one of the main reasons I like to live in town, close to work. The other reason is I have a tendency to drive cars that break down.

I hope you are feeling better by now.

20 October, 2006 08:18  
Blogger Monica said...

I knew before I even got to the fever and runny nose part that you were hell-bent on catching a cold. Ok, I concede...moms never stop being moms...I'm sitting through the post saying, "Where is his coat? He's going to get sick?"

20 October, 2006 13:52  
Blogger header5 said...

As much as I love the snow, I hope to miss it on my road trip to Texas from Oregon.

20 October, 2006 17:33  
Anonymous cyndy said...

If that stuff stays on the grass I'm happy...
but then again, it's job security for me.

21 October, 2006 08:06  
Blogger phoenix said...

I am not a snow person and never have been. What little bit we get here is too much :)

Now... nope, not going to admonish you for NOT keeping a spare coat at work!

22 October, 2006 09:06  
Blogger Herb said...

Happy 200th blogday. No nagging coming from here.

23 October, 2006 04:34  

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