I moved back to Fort Walton Beach in the summer of 2016 after being away for over 35 years. I was living and teaching in Virginia during that time. Numerous snowstorms and blizzards came my way over the years and resulted in many missed days of school. The year I retired from teaching, my school system had missed so many days due to snow that we had school on three Saturdays, plus extended days to make up the time.
The city of Virginia Beach, Virginia, only has 35 snowplows even though it is a large town with a population of over 450,000. The city plows the main thoroughfares first and the neighborhood streets last. So that means that school buses can’t get into the neighborhoods until it is safe to transport students…therefore, many missed days of school.
Recently, my father-in-law became very ill. My husband and I headed to Virginia Beach right as Winter Storm Grayson started hitting the east coast from Florida to Maine. We drove up I-85 that day because things were already getting bad along I-10 and I-95 in northeast Florida and southern Georgia.
All was fine until we hit Burlington, North Carolina, around 5 p.m. It started with flurries and then snow began falling heavily. As we got off the exit, our car was sliding. We stopped and got a hotel for the night.
The next morning, it was a winter wonderland outside. Thank goodness we had picked up an ice scraper the day before when we stopped for gas (we threw our old one out when we moved to Florida). However, I-85 was clear and we hopped on to continue our journey to Virginia Beach. All was fine until we got to Suffolk, Virginia. Snow was still falling there, and the roads had not been cleared. My husband drove slowly on one lane of the interstate as I white-knuckle gripped the dashboard.
We got off at the exit to Virginia Beach and promptly got stuck in the snow. As my husband pushed the car, I floored the gas pedal. No southern hospitality here, as cars just drove around us and one even beeped at us. We were finally able to get out of the snow and onto a flat, icy part of the road. We headed to my sister-in-law’s house and promptly got stuck trying to get into her driveway. It took shoveling and using flat boards to get us out of that one.
Temperatures were around 15 degrees the next morning, so none of the 10 inches of snow the area received had melted. The sun was out, but that snow and ice wasn’t going anywhere. Obviously there was no school. The last time I had worn at least three layers of clothing was before we moved back to Florida. It did not help that I only had tennis shoes on and no snow boots.
We were able to visit with my father-in-law at the facility where he lives, but proceeded to get stuck again. This time, two good Samaritans helped push us out of the snow. Once back at my sister-in-law’s, we did not venture out again until the next day. Again, the temperatures were around 15-20 degrees and nothing was melting. We spent time with my ailing father-in-law again. The interstates were clear, but exits, side roads, and neighborhood roads were still full of snow.
Since my father-in-law seemed better, we decided to head back home to Fort Walton Beach on Sunday. The temperature was around 10 degrees that morning. It took us over an hour to even get out of Virginia Beach. Once we began to head west, the roads got better, but the temperature did not. When we got to Emporia, Virginia, where we would pick up I-95 south, the temperature was minus four degrees.
As I write this snow tale, my former teaching colleagues in Virginia Beach are on their sixth snow day. The snow is beginning to melt, but in its place is muddy slush. It has been pretty cold down here this last month, and I have even had to use my gloves.
But at least I didn’t have to use an ice scraper, extra windshield wiper fluid, de-icing spray, snow shovel, and salt. Plus, I don’t have to worry about sliding on the sidewalks and roads.
By the way, the high for Fort Walton Beach today is supposed to be 71 degrees.