The Star-Herald

Just stay off the roads

This is a true story.  The names have been changed to protect the guilty party.  

Once upon a time there were a father, mother and daughter.  Let’s just pretend and give them names.  Dad and mom will be called Dana and Debbie.  Their daughter will be called Caitlin.  

In the not too distant past, a major snowstorm with high winds was predicted to begin on a particular Sunday afternoon.  Mom and Dad arrived home just after lunch to find Caitlin was not around.  Realizing the storm would soon hit with a vengeance, Debbie called her daughter to make a request: “Get thyself home as soon as possible before the bad weather hits.”

Caitlin, of course, was visiting friends and talking up her own kind of storm.  She did not feel any urgency to leave right then.  After all, she is a good driver.  Her reply was along the usual teenage well-thought-out responses: “Sure, sure, I should not be much longer.  Don’t worry.  I will be fine.”

The storm started right on time in the afternoon.  It was snowing hard and the wind was blowing like crazy.  Dana and Debbie conversed.  It would soon be dark.  The time for requests was over; Caitlin must get home now.  Debbie drew the short straw and called.  It seems Caitlin was a mite irritated at being interrupted by a phone call from her mother in the middle of a very important conversation.  She might be able to leave soon, but she wasn’t too sure.  Mom let it be known that “soon” better be really soon …like right now.

About 30 minutes later, Caitlin’s brother received a call on his cellphone. He talked in hushed tones and then hung up.  Mom asks, “Who was that?”  Son suddenly had a major bout of amnesia and cannot seem to remember who he was talking with. Debbie asked if Caitlin was OK. Son, obviously sworn to secrecy but knowing the questions won’t stop, manages one word: “Yeah.”

After what seems like a good part of an eternity, Caitlin enters the house, stomps the snow off her boots (or ballet slippers, I can’t remember which) and says “I know, I know, I won’t do that again.”

What followed was a little bit of a storm inside the home that rivaled the one howling outside.   Miss Good Driver got disoriented on a familiar road in a whiteout and drove into the snowbank. The first towing company she called did not answer their phone.  I bet that guy obeyed his parents by staying off the roads during horrible snowstorms.  

Caitlin finally found a towing company willing to risk life and limb to help a knuckleheaded teenager in distress.  The tow truck driver, however, spoke words that really struck fear into Caitlin’s heart: the car was positioned in such a way that it might get damaged when he pulled it out of the snowbank.  This car was her baby.  This may have been the point where Caitlin decided that she may have made a horrible mistake by driving in inclement weather.

Fortunately, the situation ended well.  The car did not get damaged and Caitlin did make it home safe and sound, eventually.  These are the lessons that she hopefully learned and won’t soon forget.  One: heed the advice of others who have been around a little longer than you have, even if they are your parents.  Two: Not every tow truck company is going to answer their phone in the middle of a raging blizzard.  Three: No matter how good a driver you are and how familiar you are with the road you’re driving on, you cannot see in whiteout conditions.   

Now, if I can only get her to stomp the snow off her boots outside the house rather than inside.  

Drive safely.

If you have questions on public works issues, please contact the Public Works Division at 764-2560.

Dana H. Fowler, P.E., is public services director for the city of Presque Isle. He can be reached at 760-2707 or via email at

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