Our recent stretch of winter here in Lake Houston brought back some unpleasant memories of our frosty time in Kansas.
Anyone reading this who has lived outside the south knows what I am talking about.
Midwest winters are brutal. Imagine 30 degrees BELOW zero. That’s not the wind chill. That’s the real temperature. You are prepared for that vicious spell or better prepared than we were a couple weeks ago, but I never, ever got used to it.
Snow is not a big deal. Most people seem to have front wheel drive and you just plow through whatever snow drift is in front of you.
But ice? Oh my. That is a whole other story.
We moved to Texas and Lake Houston in 1994, partly for my new job at Memorial Hermann Northeast but mostly because we’d had it with those Kansas ice storms.
Kansas seems to attract as many ice storms as they attract tornados. You can plow through a Kansas snow drift and survive. Ice? It’s just not the same, as Texans learned a couple weeks ago.
By the time I accepted my new position in Humble, we had already gone through seven ice storms. My hospital was 20 miles from where we lived and, I swear, the freeway was all downhill and when the temperature dropped and the rain turned to ice, there was no way to stop.
I headed out to Humble on a March day in the middle of another ice storm, inching along the freeway in my little Ford Ranger and excited to be moving to Lake Houston where the sun always shines.
Wouldn’t you know? When I got to Conroe and experienced the Texas mid-March humidity, I discovered that I didn’t have any air conditioning. That’s right. You don’t need air conditioning in March in Kansas. I sure needed it that day I drove into Humble.
Co-workers at my new job would ask me why I had sandbags and tires in the bed of my truck. Everybody does that in Kansas. That is how you get traction on snow and, sometimes, on ice.
Packing the back of that Ranger with as many tires and sandbags would not have helped us one bit the night that I would rate as our scariest night in the Sunflower State.
It had been a tough, busy week at the hospital and the overcast, grey skies and arctic chill weren’t helping, so I got the bright idea that a 20-mile trip into downtown Kansas City would be the tonic to cheer us up.
I neglected to check the weather forecast. It was the middle of winter and the height of the ice season after all.
We were headed to a country bar. THE country bar. So, we were dressed appropriately, all the way down to the trendy tip of our Tony Lama boots.
It was raining. The temperature was close to 60 – and then it happened. The temperature dropped 30 degrees. Instantly, it seemed. The wet freeway turned to a sheet of ice.
Remember what I wrote earlier? No number of tires and sandbags would keep us from slipping and sliding across the freeway. And the freeway was packed with cars and trucks careening into each other. Not a pretty sight.
We were just a couple miles from home. We could try for the exit, but cars and trucks were slipping and sliding every which way, so we drove that poor Ranger into the ditch, climbed out and crawled the two miles to home.
Crawled home? On our hands and knees! Have you ever tried to walk up or down a hill – that part of Kansas City is very hilly – in cowboy boots? New cowboy boots. Leather soles? No traction.
We got home safely, crawling bit by bit on streets layered with solid sheets of ice. As we crawled, cars and trucks everywhere were skidding into each other.
Whatever Mother Nature throws at us here in Lake Houston, it will never compare to “…the night that Kansas freeway turned to ice.”