Tom went to the Cities this past weekend for the surprise 60th birthday party of a dear friend (the annual Cookie Bake had long ago been scheduled for Saturday, so I couldn't make it).
The big storm that was predicted hit on Sunday, but Tom had gotten an early enough start home that he figured he would be okay. Besides, at that point, it was RAINING and in the mid 30s - not even near to snowing - in Minneapolis.
Now, Hinckley - about 1 1/2 hours north of the Cities - has ALWAYS been a magnet for bad weather. If you're driving in Weather, you can be sure that it will be bad as you near Hinckley. If it's raining in the spring or fall, it will turn to ice. If it's snowing in the wintertime, it will turn into a blizzard. So, it was not altogether unexpected that the rain turned to sleet which turned to slush as Tom neared Hinckley.
He was driving cautiously in our teensy Yaris, thankful for the Nokian snow tires that we'd sprung for this fall, when he came upon a horrible sight.
An SUV was upside-down in the ditch, all the windows shattered. The horn was blaring, and the car was smoking. Worse yet, 15 yards away from it was a boy (young man) - bloodied and missing a shoe - picking himself up out of the snow.
Tom called 911.
A man who had seen the accident had just stopped, too. By now, the boy (about 18 years old, Tom figured) had stumbled up to the edge of the woods . . . and was standing there among the trees and deep in the snow by the time Tom got up to him. By his actions, it was obvious that he had a concussion and was in shock. His nose was almost completely gone, and his face was beginning to swell into a grotesque mask.
The other man helped Tom get the kid down to his pickup. But, as they passed the overturned car, the boy dropped to his knees and started frantically searching in the snow. Where was his cell phone? He had to call his mom.
Once they had him in the back of the warm pickup, the boy called his mom. Tom sat next to him, listening. He wasn't making any sense. He was talking, Tom said, but the words weren't making sense. Tom asked if he could talk to the boy's mom, and he handed over the phone. "He was just IN a serious accident," his mom wailed! Tom assured her that her son would be okay and that the ambulance was on its way. They lived close by, and they would meet their son at the hospital.
While they waited, the other man told what he had seen. The boy had pulled into the passing lane to pass in the freezing rain. He lost control, slid sideways, and the car hit the edge of the road. "It must have flipped ten times", the man said. The boy was not wearing his seatbelt, and he was thrown from the SUV.
Another passer-by stopped: an off-duty paramedic. At that point, they moved the boy into the covered bed of the pickup so that the paramedic could do a head-to-toe exam. Soon, the fire trucks arrived and then the ambulance. Once Tom had seen the boy loaded up and given what information he could, he pulled back onto the road . . . shaken.
It was 8 more miles to Hinckley. And, although it was only early afternoon, that would be the stopping spot for the day.
By 5:00 PM, they had closed the interstate.
In the morning, and even though the defrost was running at its highest speed and hottest setting, it took Tom 40 minutes to scrape the thick sheet of ice off the car enough to safely drive. Within 30 minutes, he saw 8 more vehicles either upside-down or in the ditch. Some accidents were so recent that he saw the drivers still sitting in their cars, bewilderdly staring at the oncoming traffic (they being "parked" now, facing the wrong way).
Soon, though, the cold temperature (it was now below zero with about 6" of fresh snow on the ground) gave way to clearer roads. The rest of the ride home was slow and stressful . . . but, blessedly, uneventful.
Anyone who knows me knows that I sit astride the Atheist/Agnostic fence, generally falling on the Atheist side. But, that said, I can't help feeling that Tom was meant to be there on Sunday morning to help that boy . . . .