My sister-in-law, Mary, said it best. “It must be great to be a meteorologist. It’s the only job where you can be consistently wrong and still get paid!”
Over the last week, weather forecasts across the Midwest had predicted that a large ice storm would hit the Kansas City metro area on Friday, January 13. Of course, this information sent waves of anxiety rushing through me. I had moved back to my hometown of Kansas City, Kansas, in 2015. I had been living in other areas of the country, mainly the southwest deserts, for nearly 25 years. Though I love my family, I am not a winter person. I never liked being cold. I never thought that snowstorms were magical and beautiful. I remember Midwest snow and ice storms in which my cars always landed in ditches or spun out on the highways. When walking through snow, I usually end up in one of two positions—either falling forward on my face or sailing backwards onto my bottom. I just can’t seem to stay upright whenever it snows. I actually moved away from Kansas years ago because of the winter weather. Okay, true, there were other reasons that sent me roaming, but the weather was a big factor.
So, now, a huge Game of Thrones ice storm was predicted for this weekend. According to the weather reports, the storm was supposed to start at 4 pm on Friday, January 13, and not end until 2 pm on Sunday, January 15. The reports warned of hazardous driving conditions, falling tree limbs, and snapped power lines with widespread outages. All the forecasters on every network warned people to stay inside and only go out on the highways if it was absolutely necessary. This is actually to ensure that the roads are not blocked for emergency vehicles trying to get through. Elementary schools were dismissed early and afternoon sessions were cancelled. Colleges, which were starting sessions on Tuesday, January 17, pushed back the first day of classes for a full week. Many weekend events were postponed. The NFL Kansas City Chiefs game was delayed from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Sunday, when the storm was scheduled to be over. (Actually cancel football because of an ice storm? Never!) People were completely rearranging their lives and activities to avoid the consequences of the storm.
My personal inclination when I first heard the weather reports was to bury myself in my bed under a huge, warm pile of blankets. Instead, I had to go to work on Friday. I told myself that it would be okay. The storm wasn’t supposed to start until 4 pm that afternoon and my work schedule ended at 1 pm. I would have plenty of time to get to work and back home before any disasters happened.
I stumbled into work at the department store at 4 am and was surprised to find that there were several customers already shopping. Though open 24-hours, usually, the store is empty at that time except for the overnight stocking crew. By 7 am, the store was packed! People were pushing full carts all over the aisles and grabbing as many food staples as they could get their hands on. Unfortunately for most people, by 8 am, most items were sold out. The whole cereal and potato chip aisles were depleted. The store ran out of bread and milk by 9 am. People were hoarding items. It was as if they were preparing for a hurricane, an earthquake, Armageddon, or a Zombie Apocalypse. People were frantic to get their supplies and get back home before “Ice-Mageddon” began.
Of course, with my estranged relationship with winter, I wasn’t calm about the situation. My co-worker, Katy, and I continued to check our phones to track the approaching storm in between running boxes of groceries out of the stock room and onto the floor. The time of the apocalypse kept changing. It originally was scheduled for 4 pm but then the rumors started.
“I heard it’s starting at 2,” the grocery department manager informed us.
“It’s going to get bad around noonish,” the store manager confirmed at the morning meeting.
I tried to focus on my work tasks but couldn’t help saying a few prayers for everyone’s safety while having boxes of cereals grabbed out of my hands by frantic customers.
Though dark clouds loomed overhead, I was relieved to find that when my work schedule ended at 1 pm, the ice storm still hadn’t started. But I didn’t go straight home. I suddenly found myself caught up in the panic and hysteria. After I had clocked out, I grabbed a basket and began to fill it with items such as ground hamburger until Katy reminded me that if the power went out I would be stuck with three pounds of defrosting, raw meat. She was right! Now, I filled my cart with vegetables, fruit, bottles of diet coke, and a few snacks. Though I try to eat healthy, the diet coke and snacks were for those long afternoons and evenings without power when there was nothing else to do but sit around and eat.
Then, as I started to walk up to the registers, I thought of something else. I wasn’t sure how much toilet paper there was at home, but there was no way I was going to risk going through a three-day ice storm without several rolls on hand. I grabbed a couple packages of tissue and ran up to checkout. Though I could see the storm gathering in the gray sky, the precipitation hadn’t started yet and I made it home while the streets were still relatively dry.
I put away the groceries, charged up my phone, made a cup of hot tea, and wrapped myself in blankets as I waited for the storm to arrive. Two pm went by; four pm had come and gone…but still nothing happened. According to the forecasters now, the storm would not be starting until after midnight. I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for it. I went to bed soon after 8 pm. I was scheduled to be at work the next morning at 6 am. I decided to set my alarm for 3:45 am so I had plenty of time to get to work without being late.
I was very nervous about the storm, but I didn’t want to be afraid. I don’t like behaving like a coward in any situation. I didn’t want to just assume that the threatening weather would grant me an automatic snow day from work. I told Katy that I at least wanted to try to get to work on Saturday morning… “But if I slid around just once…” I said, adding a caveat.
I woke up early the next morning as planned and quickly got dressed. I opened the front door and peered outside. The neighborhood just looked a little soggy, but didn’t seem to be a problem. Umm, I thought with a little bit of disappointment, what happened to all of the ice? I left the house about fifteen minutes later. The driveway was deceptively slippery and ice caked all over my car making it difficult, but not impossible, to unlock and pull open the driver’s door. I settled into the driver’s seat and turned on the engine. I immediately turned on the defroster and that’s when I noticed something. The ice on the windshield was immediately sliding down off the glass. I got out of the car and began to scrape the windows. I was surprised when the ice fell off in solid sheets.
I decided I could probably make my way to work that morning. I think I was mainly curious. I wanted to know how bad the roads were. I slowly backed out of the driveway and drove away from the house. Immediately, my car began to slide. My tracking light kept flashing quickly on and off as if repeating over and over “You’re sliding! You’re sliding!” It made me think of a small child annoyingly calling out over and over again “Momma. Momma! MOMMA!”
“I know!” I screamed back at the yellow light that kept flashing on my dashboard. “My car is going sideways and you think I don’t know!”
I pulled the steering wheel hard as I fought to keep the car on the street and off the sidewalk. Finally, I made it out of my neighborhood and on to the main street. State Avenue wasn’t much better. I could see the streetlights reflected in the ice on the streets as I slid around the next corner. I was mainly surprised to see the deep potholes that were filled with ice which bubbled up over the openings.
Becoming suddenly concerned, I pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall. I stopped the car and opened my door. I reached out and touched the cold pavement. “Oh, my God,” I screamed as my hand touched solid ice.
I quickly pulled my arm back in the car and slammed the door. Oh, man, what should I do? I really wasn’t sure because I really didn’t want to miss a day of work. Well, actually, I couldn’t really afford to miss any work. As I sat still for just a moment trying to gather my courage to drive on, I suddenly heard a strange sound. Soft thuds like awkward baby steps started echoing all around me. I glanced out of the windshield and watched as tiny, crystal drops of ice began to smack my windshield. That got my attention and forced my decision. I started my car and slowly drove back home.
It was here! It was happening! Ice-mageddon and I wasn’t going to take any chances driving around town with sharp pieces of ice pelting down on me. I could just imagine that it would be even worse in nine hours when I was trying to get back home from work at the end of my day.
I drove back home without incident and quickly ran back up to the house. I didn’t feel any sense of relief until I was once more dressed in my old sweatpants with a heavy blanket wrapped around me. But then I felt rather silly; the ice storm suddenly ended as quickly as it had started. As I peered out of the large living room picture window, it looked as if the ice was beginning to melt.
I decided to try again to get to work even though I was going to be an hour or so late. I changed clothes once more, grabbed my purse, slipped into my coat, and stepped outside…where I promptly slid and fell down the steps to the driveway. Curse my crazy winter balance! I absolutely cannot stay on my feet in winter even when I am wearing heavy snow boots. As I pulled myself back up and went back inside the house, I decided then that I would stay in for the rest of the day.
And for the rest of the day, not another single piece of ice fell from the sky…
And for the rest of the weekend, nothing more than cool rain hit the ground. The predicted 3-day ice storm had only lasted about 2-hours.
And now, I suddenly felt somewhat disappointed. That was it! What happened to the power outages and the downed tree branches? The overall temperatures had stayed warm enough that the huge ice storm never materialized. All the worry and the anxiety over the storm were for naught.
Now, I felt rather ashamed that I had let my fear and anxiety get the best of me. I should have kept myself calm and stayed in control. Instead, I had been as bad as Chicken Little, running around screaming about the sky falling from the very first storm report I had heard.
While I was living the last eleven years in California, I never worried about the weather. I never really had to. The desert only experienced maybe two rainstorms a year. Otherwise, it was always the same—dry, warm, and arid. I hate the unpredictability of a Midwest winter. Will it rain, snow, or ice over? Well, yes it will…but then again…maybe it won’t…but if it does…but, no, it won’t hit our area….but should it happen….On and on and on and on…
I don’t like being taken by surprise and not being prepared. I don’t like not being in control of my environment and my life.
And maybe that’s why I was guided to return to Kansas. There’s always lessons to learn in every situation. Maybe the ridiculousness of our predicted ice storm was a way of telling me to put my faith only in God and everything else will work itself out.
And just why did I put so much faith in other people? Why did I give the weather forecasters so much power over me? I let my panic and anxiety take over, and I had stopped thinking for myself. I just trusted whatever the forecasters told me and got caught up in mass hysteria. It’s amazing to me how much authority we give to other people, everyone from doctors to fortunetellers, instead of trusting the universe within ourselves.
I don’t know if I will ever get over my anxiety about winter. Since November, I have already sworn ten times that I was moving back to the southwest. But maybe, I just need to slow down now and enjoy my present moments.
There is nothing like a Midwest sunset. And autumn in Kansas is the most amazing time of year. There is so much to be thankful for right now exactly where I am. And maybe, in years to come, I’ll learn to trust myself. I’ll learn to control my thoughts and my anxiety if I can’t control the environment. And maybe, in the years to come, I’ll learn to relax and truly appreciate a beautiful, God-given Midwest winter…