Friday, February 15, 2008

Snow Storms

February 13th, 2008. It was supposed to be a typical Wednesday afternoon. It wasn't. Here is my story.

At 3:00 I noticed that it had started snowing and thought that maybe I should pick up Tre from school myself instead of having him take the bus. In the back of my mind I thought of the last time it snowed and the buses couldn't make it home so we had to pick up our kids from school. But I blew off that thought and went on with my business. At 3:40 I got Belle into the car with her coat on but no shoes (she had slippers on), grabbed my coat and my phone and headed to the bus stop.

After bearly making it to the bus stop because of the snow and wind, I sat there for 20 minutes and waited. When there was no bus in site I decided to call the school to ask if they knew anything about the buses. Their phone was busy the first 10 times and when I finally got through they let me know that the kids got onto the buses and didn't know anything else. So I called the Alpine School District transportation department and asked them about Tre's bus. They put me on hold while they contacted the bus driver but couldn't get any information. They didn't know who was driving or what bus number Tre was on. We have pictures in the bus windows so the kids know what bus is theirs and I only knew the bus as the Willy Wonka bus. They told me that some of the buses were waiting out the storm due to limited visiblity and if I wanted to drive toward the school and intercept the bus then I could pick Tre up from there.

So I started driving toward the school trying not to hit anything or slide off the road and made it just out of the Traverse Mountain exit when I decided to turn around. I couldn't see anything and cars were littering the road ways because the were stuck or couldn't get any traction. I decided to head home to see if the school had left a message at the house telling me that Tre was at the school and I had to pick him up there, like the last snow day. I couldn't get through to the school or the District but when I arrived home the was a message saying that the busses turned around and were headed back to school and I could pick up my child there.

I called Jeremy to see where he was at to see if we could drive out to the school together. He was heading home from work but had been in the car for a while and was not going anywhere very fast. So I decided to make another trip back to the school on my own with Belle in the car with me. Jeremy suggested that I not take SR92 because I had told him that the road was backed up and I was afraid of not being able to see anything. I didn't want to run off the road and get stuck. I took back roads instead and though it was scary, slow, and crowded I inched my was closer to Tre's school. While driving I was talking to Jer on the phone and he was helping me stay calm and telling me which way to go. Of course I am a crying mess but I had to keep my eyes clear of tears so I could see.

Jeremy got to talk to Tre while he was on the bus. Tre memorizes Jeremys cell phone number because we know that he always has it on and charged and with him at all times. The bus driver let the kids call thier parents with her cell phone to let them know that they were okay. He didn't have any information becuase the District hadn't done anything as of yet to help them. The district just told the bus drivers to wait or try to make it back to school.

I finally arrive. It took me 2 1/2 hours to go 6 miles. I was frustrated, scared, nervous and concerned when I finally reached the school. I grabbed Belle in my arms after securing her coat and hood and made a run for the school. The 70 mph winds were blowing snow so hard it felt like ice pellets hitting your face. There was snow everywhere. I ran inside, went to the office and an aide who knows me told me Tre was in his classroom. SIGH! My nerves were calming slightly. I walked into the room but there was no Tre. Mrs. McCracken said that she hadn't seen Tre and that he was still on the bus.

Back to the office we go to find out where his bus was. There was a pit in my stomach. I knew how bad the roads were and I knew Tre was out there somewhere. Who knows what could happen. They could run off the road, they could be hit by a bigger truck, they could get stuck and freeze while waiting for help, they could be blown over by the winds. Keep in mind that I hadn't talked to or heard from Tre since about 5:00 pm. Bad thoughts just keep racing through my head. The office staff did get contact of the bus driver. She had told them that they were stuck. A snow plow and the Lehi police were trying to get there to help but hadn't made it yet. At least, they assured me, they still had heat.

What seemed like days was only a couple hours when the intercom update was that the Willy Wonka bus was unstuck and being police escourted back to school. Tre ended up staying on that bus for 4 hours by the time they got in at 7:30pm. Some of the kids were scared. Some of the kids were crying. But all of the kids on that bus were accounted for and safe now. A little ruffled and hungry, but safe. Tre, of course said it was "fun". He told me that they put a garbage can on the back row for people to use as a bathroom. The driver was calm and let the kids run around and play games while they waited. I owe my life to that bus driver. Sure she was doing her job, but she brought me my son back in one peice.

I wish the story ended there but it doesn't. There are still two buses out on the road full of children and there are still children at school whose parents haven't been able to make it. After hours of worry and wait the school gives everyone an update. One bus was stuck but the police were going to transport the children back to school in their squad cars. A couple kids at a time show up cold, tired, and hungry but not hurt. The bad news is that the last bus is really stuck and too far away for the kids to be transported back to the school so they are taken to a ward house that will be set up as a safe house. Parents can't make it to the ward house because now the roads are all closed and the weather is too bad to try to drive in it. 24 kids, a dad that met the bus while it was stuck, and the bus driver are taken to the ward house to wait out the storm.

I can't help thinking about how lonely and scared those kids are. I also can't help thinking that I was SO glad I had my family in my arms safe at the school. About 10:00pm some of parents are talking about trying to make it home with their kids. They say that Traverse Mountain is closed and SR92 is too. These people are determined and want to take back roads to get home. I talked with one mom whose 12 year old son was home alone with, no phone lines, with a one year old baby. Luckily there was an old cell phone there and she got contact with him. She waited until 9:30 for her two kids to finally make it back to the school from the stuck bus. When she left at about 11:30 pm I gave her my cell phone number and told her to call me if she makes it home okay so that I might try to get home. I never got a call.

The community really stepped up to the plate and helped with supplies. At first we had no pillows, blankets, or food. The only food was a bowl of apples, some packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and some cartons of milk. We fed the kids this for dinner and felt we may run out when Kohlers and other neighbors braved to storm to bring us food. Some even brought their own food storage in big bins. We had enough pillows for all 50 kids and 19 teachers and parents. So we were going to stay the night. I was not stupid enough to put my kids back in danger to get home. We were perfectly safe and warm and comfortable in the school and the other kids had to stay anyway since their parents couldn't make it there before the roads closed. So I decide to stay the night and help with the kids that are stuck overnight too.

I had no toothbrush, comfortable clothes, or contact stuff. The kids slept in their levis. At first we played games in the gym and watched movies in the classrooms but soon needed to get the kids to bed so they could sleep. At about midnight the last child was was Belle. I stayed up to hear the latest on the road conditions. I ended up talking to several parents and teachers to pass the time. I wasn't going to sleep that night. My contact would stick to my eyes if I slept in them and besides, I wanted to see if the storm would pass.

If you could have fun in that situation, I did. About 12 teachers and office staff and I stayed up laughing, singing, talking, and playing in the office all night. We finally found out at 6:15 am that school would be cancelled. A calling tree was set up to let all parents know. I looked outside but the storm was still raging. After talking to Jeremy, he decides to hitch a ride with a coworker to the school since his car is awful in the snow. I didn't want to drive after last night so my prince in shining armor rescued us. We ended up taking a neighbor kid home because her mom couldn't make it out of her driveway. We also led two other cars home on back roads because SR92 was still closed and they didn't know where to go.

Tre and I will never forget the night we spent at the elementary school because of a snow storm. I am sure it will make a great story but I'd rather not ever do that again!


Cammie said...

Oh my! I can't believe it. I heard about that on the news, but had no idea you were right in the middle of it. I am so glad that you were all safe and sound. I got stuck in that storm on my way home from work. It took me over 2 hours to get home that night.

I am really done with this winter weather!

Leisa said...

Yeah, me too!

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