My initial thought when the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch was that it was much ado about nothing.
The posted watch predicted everything shy of hellfire and brimstone the very day Jennifer and I were set to traverse three hours to Ford Field in Detroit and watch our beloved CMU Chippewas battle the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Quick Lane Bowl.
“Ice accumulations of one quarter to one half of an inch … strong winds and icing may lead to widespread power outages … travel could be dangerous to nearly impossible.”
To me, the NWS threats of wicked weather were merely forecasters getting freaked out because they haven’t had much to overhype this season.
It already was December 27, and every holiday traditionalist’s dream of a white Christmas was a dead as the brownish green grass that covered our yard. But Jennifer and my hopes of cheering on our Chippewas as they went head-to-head with a Big Ten opponent were vibrantly alive. Fire up, Chips!
Winter storm watch? Yeah, watch us ignore your scare tactics as we embrace the local newspaper editor’s Facebook comments that the predictions potentially could be more of a “Snowscam.” Watch us grant our Christmas wishes of a CMU football game in the heart of the Motor City.
Watch how our confidence was quickly crushed when the NWS upgraded its winter storm watch to a winter storm warning.
We saw these words again: “Travel could be dangerous to nearly impossible.” Say no more, respected weather prognosticator. Say no more.
Sure, I could have driven really, really slow. I could have driven with my hands perpetually placed on the steering wheel at the desired 10 and 2 position. Take it easy. Drive defensively.
Many of our friends and fellow Chippewa fans heard the same warning, and most of them braved the elements and pressed on to Detroit. We weren’t so daring.
Everyone on the roads ran the risk of getting into a winter weather-related accident. Sliding on the ice and spinning out onto the shoulder. Down to the bottom of a ditch. Into oncoming traffic.
Even in the best of these worst-case scenarios, Jennifer and I are in an all-but-helpless situation.
This is the reality of traveling when you’re living life in a wheelchair because you no longer can walk because of your Multiple Sclerosis. This is her reality, and it’s mine by association. I’m Jennifer’s caregiver, and it’s my responsibility to get her to our destinations safely.
Think about it: If we were to spin off onto the shoulder, we still need room to drop the ramp of our accessible van so she could drive out onto the ground. Many ditches are quite steep and weren’t dug out to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act decline grade regulations. Even the most minor of accidents could create the most major of difficulties to get Jennifer out of the van. And once she got of out the van, I doubt they make many handicapped-accessible tow trucks to get her off the road.
Now imagine encountering this situation in the middle of winter on I-75.
Regardless the weather conditions, these are the chances we take each time we travel. We put a ton of faith in God that we will get to our destination without incident. We also take this adage seriously: “Pray as though everything depends on God. Act as though everything depends on you.”
Sure, I always have God on my side. He’s good that way. But I also had a quarter century of Midwest winter driving experience and a winter weather warning telling me the odds weren’t in our favor.
Common sense kept us at home that night. MS merely was the kicker (no football pun intended).
Editor’s note: The ice and storm came as predicted. CMU fought hard but lost 21-14. We were safe and in bed 15 minutes after the game ended … Jennifer had her Rituxan infusion set for 11 a.m. in Midland the next day.