Friday, February 15, 2008

Our Little Adventure...

Well, we finally got home just before 5 PM tonight. Where were we? That's our little adventure.

Yesterday morning we woke up to a rainy day for St. Valentine's Day, and it was also Class Day. So the kids and I were out the door just before 9 AM, driving down the hill in the rain, looking forward to the sunshine promised by noon by several online and radio weather gurus. Keith left the house shortly after we did to go to work. As is family tradition, we were planning to take the kids to my parents' place so that Keith and I could go out for a Valentine's dinner and movie. My brother brings his kids also (and so did my sister when she and her family lived in the area), so the cousins get a fun evening together with a special Valentine's dinner and dessert, plus the chance to make Valentines, too. My mom especially enjoys having all her grandkids around her on Valentine's Day as it's also the anniversary of her father's passing.

Well, since we weren't planning to be home until around 10 PM that night, we put Dash, our mini shorthair dachshund, outside in his kennel in our yard, making sure that he had a nice warm comforter to snuggle under in his little doggie house so he'd be warm and dry enough despite the rain. With the promise of weather clearing by noon, we thought he'd be fine.

The letup in the rain never happened, though. Instead, the temperature dropped steadily all day, with serious downpours and hail throughout the morning and afternoon. After Class Day, I drove the kids to a couple of errands and then down to my parents' home in Pacific Beach, then drove back to Keith's office in El Cajon where we left my car before driving over to the mall to see National Treasure 2. As we were standing in line to buy our tickets, my dad called and said that he heard that Interstate 8, the major east-west corridor in San Diego that is also our route up the mountain to get home, had some problems. We didn't think much about it, and not only watched the movie but also went out to dinner at our favorite Mandarin restaurant in Mission Valley, about halfway to my parents' place from Keith's work.

After dinner we heard that it had been snowing up in the mountains all afternoon. Rather than our usual plan of driving down to get the kids together then dropping back to get my car and then following each other home, we decided to drive back to El Cajon, drop me off at my car so I could go get the kids at the beach while Keith drove up the mountain to take care of little Dash who was probably very cold by now.

By the time I had driven from El Cajon back down to Pacific Beach, Keith called me: he was stuck on the freeway just east of Alpine (halfway up the mountain), and traffic was at a crawl. And there was snow along the side of the road, a rare occurence in Alpine at the 1500 foot level. I stayed put with the kids while my dad and I tried to get an online report on traffic conditions. Keith called back ten minutes later to say that he and hundreds of cars were shuffled off the interstate and back through Alpine; Interstate 8 was closed, and the highway patrol had no idea when it would be reopened.

Obviously, we were very worried about the dog, so while my mom got makeshift beds ready for the kids and me, and I tried to call neighbors to at least put the dog into the house as the temperatures were dropping well below freezing, Keith decided that he would pull onto a dirt strip near the interstate and wait for a while in case they reopened the freeway. I spent the next half hour frantically trying to call neighbors to put our very cold Dash inside. I couldn't get Sheri either at home or on her cell (found out today that she had turned around yesterday afternoon and driven back down to her sister's house in the city because the roads were too dangerous), and Judith was too far away and couldn't get out of her driveway in her Camry. Teri's van had become stuck while driving home from the Bible Camp and she didn't have a way to get to our home unless she hiked through the blizzard in the dark. I didn't have the number for either of our next door neighbors in my phone. I was finally able to reach Jeannette who lives two streets down AND has a four-wheel drive vehicle, so she and her husband drove over at 9:30 PM, coaxed Dash out of his doggie house in his kennel area, let him go pee, and then put him in the house which was heated to 55, a great deal better than the 16 degree overnight low. Finally after waiting on the side of the frontage road for a couple of hours, Keith gave up on the freeway reopening and drove back down to the beach where we all slept at my parents' place: the boys on sofas, Keith on the living room floor on an air mattress, B on the floor in the spare bedroom where E and I were sleeping on the trundle day bed. From my dad's laptop I e-mailed Father Acker to tell him that we wouldn't be attending the Friday morning service in Alpine, our usual routine.

We woke up this morning with Interstate 8 still closed. Keith took the van into work while my mom fed the kids and I showered, and we all got back into yesterday's clothes, just grateful that Mom had extra toothbrushes for us to use. Jeannette called my cell and offered to go back over to our house this morning, let Dash out to pee again, and feed him. The interstate was still closed by the time the kids and I made it to the chiropractor's office for my usual neck treatment, so we headed over to Keith's office. We had to cancel Johanna, E and T's math tutor, as all the kids' math books were at home. So I took the kids shopping (Sears had a great kids' clothes sale!) and we went to go see ... National Treasure 2. After the movie, I checked my cell and saw that Sheri had called while we were in the movie; she had been able to drive up the mountain to our town by 12:30 PM. Keith started home a bit before we did, and we finally were home just before 5 PM. Keith had taken a fairly desperate dachshund out to pee just before we drove into the driveway, and after we stopped my car and opened the door, a small red streak jumped into the backseat with the kids, jumping around and licking us all with joy. His people were home!!!!

There's very little snow left around town; it's rather difficult to believe that less than 24 hours before we had blizzard conditions such that several hundred people were stranded on Interstate 8 and had to be rescued by firefighters and highway patrol and were put up in Red Cross shelters both at our town's fire station and at a casino fifteen minutes east of our town. Big rigs had jack-knifed and collided; cars had overturned in multiple accidents, and many, many cars were stuck in the snow on Interstate 8. The temperatures dropped so low that there were snow flurries in several parts of El Cajon (elevation 500 feet) for the first time in twenty years, and the temperature at the San Diego Zoo was 39 degrees at 5 PM, according to Keith's sister. Areas like Alpine, Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Campo, Potrero, and others that rarely see snow did, and had the traffic accidents to prove it. One major highway in the North County is still closed as a major mudslide occurred as a result of the October fires. The highway leading up to my parents' cabin fifteen minutes further up the mountain from our town still has not been cleared, and they received a foot of snow there.

And the clincher to this adventure of snow in San Diego? Every single weather forecaster missed it. The sunny afternoon that was predicted ended up being one of the coldest storms in San Diego history with pouring rain, thunder and lightning, hail, and snow sticking at 1000-1500 feet. In fact, if Keith and I hadn't had plans to go out to dinner for Valentine's Day, I would have been driving back up the mountain at about 3 PM in my little '91 Corolla with balding tires and probably would have been stuck (or much worse!) with four kids in the car with me. Despite missing the blizard that prevented people from driving around even in our town, I'm very thankful that we were warm and safe at the beach.

And now we're home, nice and toasty with the heater running, in fresh clothing, and with a very happy dachshund curled up next to me on the sofa as I type. The Valentine's Day Blizzard of 2008 will definitely go down in the annals of San Diego weather history. And it's true: there's no place like home. And we owe Jeannette and her family several pounds of toffee for taking good care of our beloved Dashwood.

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