Monday, May 30, 2016

Terror on the Turnpike

The first half of our seven hour drive home to southern New Jersey from Buffalo, NY can best be described as uneventful, routine, mundane.

The family visit for my niece's christening had been lovely, albeit quick.  Now, as we traveled east on the New York State Thruway, my 18-year daughter Melissa, with ear-buds firmly in place, rested her head against the back seat window and shut her eyes to the world. In the front, with my husband Bob at the wheel, we made small talk to pass the time.

My husband Bob snapped this incredible image of a storm
front approaching just east of Rochester, NY. Little did
we know these ominous clouds were a sign of things to come!
Storm clouds rolled in as the highway took us past Rochester, NY. However, a mere five minutes later we bid the dark skies goodbye.

A quick glimpse at my trusted weather app told me that the brief Rochester rain was part of a wide-spread system of powerful storms wrecking havoc across the midatlantic states.

Fortunately, the ominous clouds steered clear of the New York State Thruway, allowing us to continue on our journey, complete with a couple of potty breaks and quick pizza dinner.

As we inched towards the Pennsylvania border, Bob and I watched the sun disappear behind the cloud-filled western sky. Our eyes adjusted to the dark highway while the car pushed on.

The first drops hit the windshield as we entered the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a road that gives motorist ease of access to the state's Poconos Mountains region and points further north.  Without worry, Bob flipped on the wipers to keep the windshield free of rain, which fell at a slow, yet steady pace.




Not really.  At least not yet.

Melissa slept on as we drove down the northeast extension. I continued to make small talk, hoping Bob wouldn't notice the fear I struggled to keep at bay. After all, a nervous wife in the passenger seat would do nothing to help him navigate this wet road made narrow thanks to never-ending construction.

Another quick look at the weather app radar revealed a large swath of red, indicating a violent storm immediately to our south.

I counted down the miles, hoping we would outrun this monster.

Alas, t'was not meant to be.

With a mere 60 miles left in what had become an arduous journey, the skies ripped open to unleash mother nature's fury.

Without warning, our car was engulfed by a massive wall of torrential rain that fell thick and fast, blinding everyone in its path.

Some cars decided to pull over, while others drove at a snail's pace.

Bob decided against either of these options, citing both as too dangerous. He remained calm while the storm continued to unleash its wrath, even though visibility had been nearly extinguished.

I could not see anything as the relentless storm became sentient, alive, ready to swallow us whole.

My entire being gave way to fear, then panic.

Inside this car was everything.


My child, my entire world.

Panic turned to terror as my hands went numb, I shook uncontrollably, and the sobs buried deep inside were set free.

Bob stroked my arm, assuring me everything would be okay, that we would make it home alive.

Indeed, at his words, the rain seemed to lessen in intensity, allowing us to safely exit the turnpike.

Slowly, the torrents gave way to a steady drizzle.

My shaking subsided.

I dried my eyes.

And my husband safely guided his precious cargo those last few miles through our neighborhood to the welcome embrace of home.

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