Tami's Unscheduled Tailgate Party

When you read about the biggest tailgate party ever held in Seattle it seems like a nightmare from another place and time. That is, until you hear about it first hand from your sister in law who became a player in the scariest traveling day of her life.

Tami works just southeast of the Seattle city limits. Monday, November 27 was her day to work until 7 p.m. At 3 p.m., she stepped outside to view the sky after hearing radio reports of a rapid incoming snowstorm. As much as it snows in the towering Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges that surround the Puget Sound, it rarely falls in the I-5 corridor.

An uncomfortable shiver ran down Tami’s back which she realized had nothing to do with an imminent hot flash. It was something more malevolent.

“I’m going to cancel the remainder of my appointments and head home,” she announced to her co-workers upon her return. Tanya would have to do the same because they were carpool buddies.

The other clinic staff laughed off the usual “hysterical” response to snow and voted to stay at work. Tami reluctantly agreed to finish her schedule as well. It was a mistake.

At 7 p.m., Tanya and Tami struggled through a bone chilling whiteout to the car. The prospects of driving 28 miles in a blizzard frightened them. However, Tonya had a pre-teen waiting for her at home, alone.

“Do you suppose we’ll make it home by 10?” Tonya asked in a hopeful tone.

Tami responded with a not so optimistic sigh, “I think we will be lucky to make it home by midnight if this keeps up,”

With heater blowing full blast and windshield wipers at top speed, they began the first 2 ½-hour journey that took them on an 11 mile bumper to bumper slip and slide along I-405. Creeping across what Tami estimated was two inches of solid ice; they reached their I-5 connection at 9:30 p.m.

At the same time, the Monday night football fans were reaching this junction. There were cars, busses, and limousines with NFL banners and all the celebration that accompanies a victory. These mixed with snow, ice, wind and fender-benders. The shoulder of the highway was a graveyard of cars sidelined by minor crashes or empty gas tanks. Most off ramps were not accessible.

Tami was happy about two things: she had the foresight to fill her tank and the Seahawks triumph made the game travelers in better spirits.

“I was shaking like I had Parkinson’s disease because I was scared and my muscles were cramping from gripping my steering wheel and holding my foot on the brake.” Tami told me the next day.

“I couldn’t control my car!” she added in an exasperated tone.

Just sitting on a slightly banked curve would cause her car to slide into the next lane. Some of the people had 4-wheel drive and thought they should be able to move past the other cars.

“It just doesn’t work that way when your car starts skating directly into another cars path.” She laughs about it now but I could hear her leftover frustration.

“There is nothing you can do but roll down your window and scream for them to stay back. That’s what Tanya did each time my car began to slide.”

She was near hysteria, she added, when a limo driver rolled his window down and kindly gave her some tips that involved ‘neutral’ and ‘tapping breaks’. After following his valuable advice, she was steadier on the road.

The hours passed much faster than the miles. A number of Seahawks fans continued to honk and wave their banners. There was standing room only on the chartered buses. The lucky ones had on board toilets. She wondered how many other drivers were as painfully in need of a rest stop as they were.

A few minutes after 3 a.m. they arrived at Tanya’s house and to the young daughter to whom they had kept in contact by cell phone. They had traveled 28 miles in 8 hours… a little more than 3 miles per hour.

Tami stayed the morning although she was too keyed-up to sleep. The remaining 13 miles home would wait until that afternoon.

She said it is difficult to put into words the emotional turmoil of such an experience.

“I did learn something important, though!” Tami exclaimed. “I’m going to follow my intuition from this day forward.”

Some other links: Puget Sound Snow, KOMO Video.


swampwitch said…
Tailgate Party? I had visions of bbq grills, hot dogs, beer, and drunk football fans...NOT ! A real tailgate "party." 3 a.m.? 8 hours?
When my daughter FINALLY made it home that night, she didn't go to work the next day !
BTW, question? When I click on your name from my comment page, I go to some weird place on Google.
Go back to yesterday's post and click on your name...see what happens. I had to go to my site meter, find you under visits, and navigate from there. Duh?
BarnGoddess said…
omg! how scary!

I am a firm believer in the 'gut feeling'

I have developed mine into a 6th sense believe it or not :)

I heard about this from a friend who lives in Seattle, he also drove home in that awful mess.

When he got home he emailed me and said it was one of the worse amd scariest experiences he had even been thru. Hes lived his whole life in WA.

I am glad your loved one made it home okay!
Pam said…
Excellent writing. Griping story...sorry for the pun.
swampy said…
OK, it's working now...Whew! I thought I had lost you. :)
Kila said…
We get a lot of snow and ice here in Wisconsin, of course, but this story beats them all! I've never heard of traffic moving that slow. Glad your SIL stayed safe!
Karmyn R said…
My 9 hour drive home that Thanksgiving was almost as scary -it's one thing to have snow - but ice on top of it makes things worse.
Anonymous said…
Hi Pamela,
Ramblin Irishman here. I have to post as anonymous since blogger won't let me post under my name. Scary experience indeed. Having been caught in an ice storm over at Portland I know what it can be like. Of course as a Bronco fan I must say that any Seahawk fan got what they deserved.:)
Claudia said…
i just came from Songbirds where she had lovely snow pictures and it almost made me wish I lived somewhere where it snows. Then, I read this...and I think I am going to kiss the ground here that I don't...That is scary! I think I held my breath for most of the time...
Jodi said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jodi said…
I came across the game on TV and thought that they were playing in Green Bay until I saw the faint Seahawks logo on the 50 yard line... it did look nasty there! I felt sorry for everyone who was out in that weather!
Shauna said…
Wow! What a story! I can't imagine how that must have felt!
SongBird said…
Great post and I am so glad they made it home safely. I had to drive on the Beltway around Washington DC once in an ice/snow storm. Terrifying! I trusted myself since my snow/ice driving strategy is to drive as slowly as possible. But I could not believe how fast other people were driving and how many of them were slipping and sliding out of control.
C said…
Intuition, neutral and tapping brakes. Best advice ever.
Willowtree said…
Holy Crap! That is just so foreign to me.
Melissa said…
Oh man. I spun out in the snow once and it is the most out-of-control feeling in the world. I'm so glad they made it home safely.
Julie said…
That can be so stressful and terrifying. Been there done that. So glad they made it home safely.
Robin said…
God gave us intuition for a reason. I try to listen when it speaks (it's always right :/).

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