“We have no idea what’s going on up there.”


It’s a fun story, certainly a prime example of my occasional lack of common sense, and more first-hand eyewitness reporting of the state of Oswego county and points nearby. So, because I’m here to blog it, I provide below my attempted travel to Clarkson for a department colloquium and nanoworkshop.

6:00 am – begin drive to Potsdam. Cold wind, blue skies.

6:20 am – approaching Mexico, NY. Few flakes, but nothing to stop a (er, my) VW Beetle.

6:25 am – within five minutes, blue skies had turned into white skies. The abruptness of the change from non-lake effect to lake effect should have been warning enough.

7:00 am – somewhere between 6:25 and 7:00 am, when it hadn’t been snowing THAT BAD yet, I decided it was time to do something stupid, so I pulled out the digital Elph, set it to movie mode, and recorded the little snippet above.

7:25 am – the turning point. After 1 hr, the 4-car caravan I found myself (thankfully) at the back of had made it nearly 5 miles towards the Mexico exit (34 on 81 N). By this time, the red glow of the taillights two cars in front of me were intermittently viewable due to snow obstruction. The exit itself was marked with a tractor trailer pulled to the side of the road, lights flashing. The three cars ahead of me begin the slow rightward veer to the exit. I trudge ahead beyond the exit…

7:26 am – … 13 feet. I wish now that I had had the better mind to take a picture of the view in front of me. My wagon train had been the ONLY thing on the road in at least… 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, any pair of tire tracks were filled in, leaving nothing to follow. For all intensive purposes, 81 North WAS GONE. Literally disappeared. It looked like I had taken a hard right turn off the road and were facing the woods, the woods as they would have appeared after any other snow storm. The snow was at 7 inches where the tracks would have been, making the actual level of the snow all of 13 inches, making the path in front of me at least 3 inches higher than the clearance of the Beetle.

7:27 am – for the first time in my otherwise spotless driving career, I threw the car into reverse (which has to be some kind of no-no on a state highway) and drove back towards exit 34. Just barely making it to Route 104, I wait with the accumulated cars in the accumulation.

7:45 am – some small group of drivers begin the trip along 104 Wes, theoretically back onto 81 S. The on-ramp, invisible and sign-less, is overshot by all involved, leaving us to slip+slide along 104 W towards… nowhere in particular. With nowhere to turn around due to the height of the snow drifts, we trudge along for several miles. I knew there were houses there, as I could see the orange glow of room lights cutting through thinned snow drifts building up at house walls.

8:05 am – some spot in the road was wide enough to turn around, which we all did.

8:25 am – We reached the 81 South on-ramp just in time for the National Weather Service to declare a state of emergency in Oswego. “Far out,” I said. I hadn’t gotten near Oswego yet.

After 9:30 am – now comfortably out of the worst of the weather, I make the first calls to Cetin Cetinkaya at Clarkson and let him know I’m going to be late. About a week and a half late.

3 hr 3 min or so to get all of 35 miles. I’ve mentioned this to every Syracusan I’ve told the story to. No matter what you’ve seen on the TV, heard on the radio, or read about in the paper, we have no idea what’s going on up there.


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