While Jeff was in California visiting his folks, I decided I’d go see my family over the weekend, which also marked my sister’s 40th birthday. Normally I try to leave from there early Sunday afternoon–no later than 2 or 3–so that I still have some time Sunday evening after getting home to recover from the visit, to do household chores, and in case traffic ends up being particularly bad.
Because Sunday was my sister’s birthday, though, the family decided to mark the occasion with a cook-out, which wasn’t scheduled even to begin until 4:00. Mom agreed that I didn’t have to stay long, but could leave after about an hour. By 5:00, it was starting to rain and get quite windy, so I said my goodbyes and headed back.
Before I’d gone 30 miles, the rain and wind had increased to storm intensity, and continued to worsen for the next few hours; traffic also was very heavy. There were stretches of travel that were as bad weather-wise as anything I’ve encountered in 25 years of driving, and the fact that the intensity was sustained for nearly the entire trip home definitely made it the most nerve-wracking drive of my life. For much of the trip it was difficult to see vehicles three to four car lengths ahead, and almost impossible to see anything beyond that, even with nearly every driver having their hazard lights on. Sometimes the wind drove the rain so strongly into the windshield that there were near white-out conditions. As I approached northwestern Virginia, the radio station began interrupting its programming with frequent updates about severe thunderstorms in the area that included inch-diameter hailstones and the possibility of tornados, recommending that folk find shelter. By this point, there was really nowhere else for me to go, so I just continued onward, continuing to make calculations in my head as to whether I was going to stay ahead of the path of the worst weather (the weather alerts would give the position, bearing and speed of the storm systems, so I would calculate my own position and bearing in relation to these). Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any hail or tornados, only some pretty serious rain, wind and lightning, and by the time I reached Manassas I was coming out the worst side of the storm and made it the rest of the way to Arlington in relatively lighter rain, having added about 50% to my travel time.
I was white-knuckled much of the way, but the car handled well. Many times a dashboard light indicating for the traction control system lit up, indicating that the car was doing its magic to keep from skidding or sliding, but I never lost any control of the car even when other cars were clearly hydroplaning. I was quite glad to be home, finally, and felt suddenly drained when the adrenaline rush subsided.