Friday, December 09, 2005

Ice storm

Maybe about once every year or two we get an ice storm in central Texas. Generally it's not bad, but everyone freaks out. Then again, everyone freaks out and can't drive when there is rain, so it's not surprising with the ice thing. Yesterday was our ice storm.

First off, understand that we Texans think that temperatures in the mid 40s are arctic. Yesterday our highs were in the 20s. It was actually colder in Austin than it was in Anchorage, AK. Oftentimes the cold is enough to freak us out. Add just a hint that there might be snow or ice and the schools close down.

I woke up yesterday morning, looked outside and saw nothing on the street. Of course it could be the dreaded "black ice" that people worry about around here, but it looked fine. I go into the kitchen and make my famous tiramisu for the potluck we were having to celebrate the last night of Instructional Communication and I tune into the local news radio channel. Listeners start calling in about the ice. Now one must understand that there are still plenty of rural communities surrounding Austin and ice in the Hill Country must not be that pleasant. But the announcers continue to talk about various wrecks, urging folks to stay home, and people are freaking out.

I had told students that I would hold special office hours yesterday so they could review for the final. On a nice day, I would need to leave the house at 10:30 to make it to my office by noon. Today, I'm thinking it's 10 a.m. and then I'm thinking it's 9:30. The more I hear folks freaking out, the less inclined I am to drive. Often I refer to I-35, the main and pretty much only direct route from Pflugerville to San Marcos, as the "Death Highway." Even on a beautiful day with little traffic, my commute takes an hour. Add rain, construction or a wreck, expect delays to last hours, which just stresses me out. So I'm hearing these folks on the radio talking about this horrid traffic and ice, and knowing that the finals aren't until Monday and Tuesday, I inform my students that I'm rescheduling the office hours to Monday morning. Since ice on the road lasts no more than 3 hours, I figure the roads will by dry by Monday.

I'm actually glad I did this, from what I saw later in the afternoon when I had to drive down, after the radio said the roads were clear and it was safe to venture out. First, as expected, the only ice on the roads were the chunks falling off the vehicles. Still, people were idiots. Doug and I went to lunch at a local restaurant and as I was driving in the parking lot to leave, this guy approaches me in the wrong lane and just looks at me like I was in the wrong lane, and he would not move over. I had to actually pass him on the right to get around him.

Later, as I was driving I-35, traffic at times was stop-and-go, for no discernable reason. If there was an overpass, traffic would stop. At one point, this truck in front of me used the shoulder to pass the car in front of him. I'm still not sure what was up with that. People were driving like idiots; I can't imagine what it would have been like earlier in the morning when folks were freaking out.

At least it's over and now we don't have to worry about ice again for another two years. Still it's cold with temperatures below freezing. Never fear, by Sunday temperatures will be in the mid- to upper-60s, which is plenty cold enough for most of us.

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