Sunday, January 6, 2008

Of fog and multiple car pile-ups

I just walked in the front door of my house (6:15pm), a full 5 1/2 hours after leaving Chicago. Normally, this little jaunt takes something like 2 1/2 hours.

We had just crossed over into Wisconsin when the fog set in. At first it wasn't very bad, but then, rather suddenly, it thickened into a white soup that reduced visibility down to about three car-lengths. I slowed down to 35 mph and left several car-lengths between me and the vehicle in front of me. And thank God for that, because a few moments later, a wall of stopped vehicles loomed up immediately in front of us. I hit the brakes and veered off onto the left-hand shoulder to make sure no one hit me and that I didn't hit anyone. Thankfully, the cars immediately in front of and behind me were all able to stop without incident, but just a few seconds passed after we stopped before we started to hear loud screeches and bangs just behind us.

One after another, probably four all-told in our immediate vicinity, vehicles were colliding. It's one of my least favorite sounds--that brief squeal of tires followed immediately by metal and plastic slamming into each other.

And then we waited. I jumped out and found a bare bush off in a field to pee behind, then tried to catch a glimpse of what was stopping us. But the fog was too thick, and the line of cars just went on as far as I could see. Soon enough, dozens of emergency vehicles began to whiz by in either direction. It became clear that they'd completely shut down the south-bound lane so that ambulances and the like could get to where they needed to be. People were getting out of their cars to seek out information, some making sure others were OK--the trucker in front of us brought blankets to one family in a car behind us.

After two hours of sitting, the state patrol was able to clear enough of the crashed cars behind us so that we could all pull y-turns and head south in our north-bound lane, eventually crossing over into the actual south-bound lane and then getting onto Highway N. We could see that this was where they were diverting all of the interstate traffic (which was waaaay backed up), and I don't suspect Stoughton has ever seen that kind of traffic on a Sunday night before.

Finally, after yet more tense, foggy driving, we made it home safely. I'm checking the news now and it looks somewhat grim. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the injuries were all relatively minor, and that no one was seriously hurt or, God forbid, killed.

In closing, FOR GOD'S SAKE, IF IT'S FOGGY WHEN YOU'RE DRIVING, SLOW THE HELL DOWN! And may you all be safe and sound tonight.

Channel3000's coverage of the pile-up
(update) NBC reporting 2 killed in the accident

(later update) I'm starting to realize how incredibly lucky we were. Looks like we were at the very back of the miles-long line of cars crashed and backed up, which is why they were able to clear the cars behind us and let us turn around. Crazy things is, we hit the wall of vehicles around 3:15pm, and I'm told the original accidents that started the whole thing happened around 2:30pm. That's a long accident.

I'm incredibly thankful to be home at all, while many of my fellow motorists are stuck in motels and such tonight. My thoughts go out to the families and friends of people who were injured, and especially of those who were killed. What a shitty night.

5 comments:

The CDP. said...

I'm really glad that you're okay.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Good on you for having the sense to slow down. Glad you're okay...

Cargirl said...

Wow. I-90 can be a pain for that to happen on. You guys really are lucky. It wasn't foggy out here in the suburbs, but I heard all sorts of mayhem from up north. Plus, you guys had tornadoes.

It was a beautiful day in Wisconsin today! Death and destruction, with a little bit of spotty rain in the early evening.

Emily said...

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate it.

And yes, what the crap is up with tornadoes in January? (rhetorical question--we know full well what's causing the crazy weather patterns)

Cargirl said...

Of course we do. Homosexuals and Jews.

The Lost Albatross