Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday Slight

Ominous, yes, but nothing like the black sky in Spokane yesterday afternoon. 

Glad to be here today.  For a few moments yesterday afternoon, I wondered if the end was coming----along with hundreds of other drivers on I-90 between Coeur d'Alene and Spokane.

So keep your hands on the wheel

Believe in the things that are real
And take your time and keep it between the lines
Just take your time and keep it between the lines
--Ricky Van Shelton

Ricky Van Shelton's country hit isn't on my list of favorites, but the simple advice in its refrain more than likely helped keep me alive while passing through the scariest hail storm I've ever seen.

Spokane Airport was my destination.  Annie was due in at 5:30.  She had gotten a seat on an earlier flight so there was no hurry.  After leaving Sandpoint where we'd dealt with rain all day, I encountered clear skies along HWY 95 and figured I'd left the nasty weather behind. 

East of Spokane, however, I began to notice a gloomy, ominous, black cloud cover extending across the western sky and to the north.  

For a while, it looked as though the freeway would be south of the impending storm, but as I moved on, the roadway met the south portion of the vast cloud head on.

Soon, huge raindrops were pummeling my windshield.  I turned the wiper to their highest setting. 

The world turned dark and nightmarish with little or no visibility and water hitting the windshield with such furry that it was almost impossible to see through the deluge. 

The mass of vehicles quickly slowed down but not without a few "idiots," (as my Forest Service defensive driving teacher Howard McKay referred to them years ago)  zipping in and out of lanes like whizzing bullets. 

Meanwhile, the windshield (replaced just a few weeks back) began to sound and look like millions of whizzing bullets from the sky were hitting their targets head on. Heavy raindrops turned to large hail stones. 

I drew myself as far back as possible, fearing that one of those intense pelts may just shatter the window directly into my face or into my lap. 

Clutching the steering wheel and coming to a quick conclusion that "staying between those white lines" designating my lane and praying a lot were my only options at this time. 

Exiting the freeway and coming to a stop in a safe place was not an option because I was part of a huge traffic mass with hundreds of moving parts.  Those parts needed desperately to work in unison or else!

Whatever was meant to happen was gonna happen, and I had very little power over the outcome except to remain as calm as possible and guide that car between my lines. 

I'm guessing the scary driving lasted for three miles, with only brief spurts of relief provided by the system of concrete overpasses along the freeway. 

As fast as I passed into the storm zone, I came out of it into comparatively bright sunshine and a whole lot of wet stuff on the roadway.  

I learned later that the darkest of the massive dark cloud even included what appeared to be a small funnel cloud.  That area north of I-90 also suffered extensive damage.  I also learned this morning that our Belgian visitors who are staying near Coulee City may have even seen or experienced an actual tornado. 

Wild, wild weather, and this morning, we're experiencing something seldom seen in July---wet, dank fog.  

The weather report indicates that better times are ahead for this day.  The sun will be out, temperatures will warm up and we can continue on with more summer-like conditions. 

That will be nice because I did make it to the airport to pick up Annie.  We enjoyed dinner with the gang last night and even some festive moments while standing in the line at Sandpoint's popular downtown ice cream shop, Panhandle Cone. 

The schedule calls for some folks to fish, some to attend the powwow, one (yours truly) to drop in on a reunion this evening and some folks to spend the night camping in a rather unique setting----a teepee on the lake shore.  

Swiss Miss is one of those, so she's in for a day filled with interesting culture. 

Should be a fun day for all, especially without dark clouds and tornados. 

Happy Saturday.  And, do keep it between the lines. 

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