Thursday, February 14, 2008

Winter Weather Snafu

At one point I really thought I'd be spending the night in my car in the wintry mess in that stinkin' triangle in South Philly.

The skies opened up at 5 p.m. the other night to grace us with freezing rain after a day of a few flurries and most of us relaxed and anticipating a normal commute home. Such was not the case. Mother Nature typically plays favorites and dumps piles of snow and sleet and freezing rain on parts "north and west of the city" and I gripe that those of us south and east of the city never get squat. At least not anything that's worth leaving early or having a snow day.

She told me.

Just as everyone and their grandmother left the office Tuesday evening, the freezing rain hit and with plummeting temps, froze parts of the roads, mainly the bridges. We scurried to our cars and hoped against hope we'd make it home soon and safe. Within a 30 min. window all of Philly and it's surrounding 'burbs came to a screeching halt. Accidents on 95 at Broad Street, slow going over the bridges translated into detours, bottlenecked intersections and people going no where fast.

I thought Broad St. would be the safest play since it's well traveled and would likely not be too slippery. After stopping for gas, I approached the 95 interchange only to see a stream of tail lights before my eyes and parked cars. OK, I thought. Take a right on Pattison and follow the cut off to 291 and pick up 95 that way. I went all of maybe a quarter mile to be in my own sea of parked cars. No one moved for 15 minutes. People were taking rights onto 20th Street - they seem to know what they're doing?! I'll follow least I'll be moving. I drove north on 20th Street and took a left onto Penrose figuring all the detoured Broad Street traffic was slowing up Pattison but this route would cut out that mess. Again, I went maybe three quarters of a mile and stared at the side of a Sunoco Station for about 20 minutes. I could see the Platt Bridge ahead of me and bright red tail lights far off into the horizon. I imagined Pattison traffic, Penrose traffic and 28th Street traffic all trying to converge into 2 slippery lanes to go over this bridge. Bad news.

By now it was approaching 7 p.m. and I'd been in the car for over an hour. I'M NEVER LEAVING!?! STUCK IN THE TRIANGLE IN SOUTH PHILLY!?! I know I allowed myself this drama for about 30 seconds. Then I collected myself...ate my little English Muffin to tide me over and told myself to head north. Someway, somehow there is a way out of this damn triangle and a way out of the city. I knew every major artery taking one over a bridge and out of the city was clogged. I could head north and perhaps park close to a train station, leave the car overnight and train it home? Maybe. Or I make for the ghetto. If I leave via West Philly I can putz down Baltimore Pike the entire way.

So I persevered and made my way north. Oregon Avenue was a parking lot as were Washington Avenue and Grays Ferry. I forged ahead. I made it to Walnut Street around 7:15. It took some time to get past Penn but eventually I made it to 40th Street - safe (sort of). I was past the ugliness of bumper to bumper traffic but I had the sketchiness of WAY West Philly looming before me. If I can make it to 50th Street, I'll be fine I reassured myself. When 50th Street greeted me, I took a left and inched my way down a hill to Baltimore Avenue and gleefully made my right and headed west. Past a Caribbean food joint, past some boarded up homes, past Cobbs Creek until finally the Welcome To Yeadon Delaware County sign waved hello in the rain and I rejoiced.

I'd never been more happy to see this area of Upper Darby, to see the Golden Mile in Springfield and know I was only 20 minutes or so from home. I pulled into my driveway around 8:15 - my 3 hour trek home over - safe, relieved and famished. Not since the snowy days of winter 2001 do I recall such an ordeal getting home in inclement weather. I'm sure I've had some moments scattered here and there throughout the years, but this one goes on the shelf - with my other 3 hour hellish trip home on 76 that January day 7 years ago.

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