Friday, 3 December 2010

Now book related but Snow related - a tale of saga and woe

Oh I wasn't going to do a 'snow post' but as I have exhausted all my families ears with my snow saga I feel I must go one step further and get it off my chest on the blog.

The whole county of Surrey got caught out on Tuesday and I don't think anyone was able to foresee the events that took place that afternoon/evening. OK so it had snowed the night before, but not much. You could still see the ground and most of the roads where clear. I was able to drop my little boy off at my parents-in-law that morning with no bother before driving 7 miles onto work.

During the day it began snowing heavily so I arranged with my boss to work through my lunch hour so I could leave at 3.30pm to get a head start on the traffic. Now was that not sensible of me?

Unfortunately when I left at 3:30pm and get onto the main road I hit traffic, but I expected this. The traffic is slow moving but it is moving. But this goes on for much longer than I expected and by the time I turn off the main road to get to my In-laws house its 6pm, I've been in the car for 2 ½ hours when normally this journey would take 20 minutes. According to my mum there are two lorry's overturned in the nearest town, and one has overturned and ended up in some ponds which is blocking all the traffic.

Its around this time that I realise how hazardous the side roads really are. As I turn corners my car starts to slip and I see other cars having to be pushed by kindly passers by. I find myself by now queuing in a road and the traffic is now not moving at all and we get the news that the road I am on is completely blocked. I ring my In-laws and let them know that I cannot get to them, my son will be spending his first night away from home (which upsets me) and I then turn around and start to drive home. Its now 7:15pm.

The road is clear for around 2 miles with me driving very slowly on a 40 mph road at under 20mph. But then 5 miles from home I hit a wall of traffic which is not moving at all and this is where I will stay for the next few hours.

While the snow is still falling heavily and while the snow under the cars are turning to solid ice as the temperature drops, this is how I am spending my time. I'm turning my engine off (to conserve petrol) and sitting there for at least ten minutes. Suddenly everyone starts to switch their engines on, everyone's lights pop back on and my heater kicks into gear, we all eagerly move 4 or 5 car spaces (some wheels slipping more than others) before stopping and switching our engines off again for the next ten minutes. The monotony of this is broken at times while I call my mum and moan or I call Chris before he sets off to work and almost cry.

Even though I haven't eaten since one that afternoon I am not hungry but I am bursting for the loo. The men in this jam have the advantage in bodily logistics in situations like these and often stand at the side of the road while I try not to think of waterfalls.

Eventually at MIDNIGHT I make it to the top of Reigate hill, a steep-ish hill about a mile long and there is a sudden abundance of abandoned cars. I almost contemplate taking the motorway but one look at that makes me realise that that would be even more dangerous than the situation I am already in. I later found out that there were 400 abandoned lorries on the motorway in Surrey that night. There are now many pedestrians having to walk home and I almost feel envious of them; at least they are moving.

Funnily enough I also bump into Chris here who is working as part of the emergency services. The last I see him he is talking to a girl who is crying hysterically because she has been in her car since 2pm.

As I start to slowly make my way down the hill I see more and more pedestrians and more abandoned cars (including an abandoned bus) but I am OK. As I come to a particular steep part of the hill however my brakes stop working and I shit myself (not really.) It was one of the most scariest things that has ever happened to me and I honestly believe I am going to hit the car in front. But all these hours of driving on ice has made me an almost expert in these conditions so I take my foot off the brake and then spin the car towards the curb while braking in a jabbing motion and I manage to stop. Some guys who have already abandoned their cars help me 'slide' the car into a parking space and I then pull the handbrake as far as it will possibly go and contemplate the mile walk home.

Thankfully a guy in a flashy looking sports car offered me a life to the bottom of the hill which while under normal circumstances I would not accept, I did this time. The guys name was Lee and he lived in Kent; I doubt he found his way home that night.

After being dropped off I finally walked into my house at just after 1am – 9 ½ hours after leaving work and travelling a total of 14 miles.

Aside from dreading driving down that hill again (to the point where its keeping me up at night) we have all recovered. Chris got the car back the next day after the road had been gritted and our son acted like nothing had happened (as long as someone's feeding and dressing him, it seems he's happy) and I thank God that my son was snowed in as at least he was safe and warm. Plus I at least made it home whereas many people didn't.

Well done if you managed to read all of that! I HATE snow. Normal service will shortly be resumed. Here's a satellite picture of the UK I found amusing.

Posted by Jess


  1. Oh my goodness! And I thought snowstorms in the Washington, D.C., area were hellish. Glad you made it home safely though.

  2. Oh no! Poor you :-( I'm glad to hear that you are safe and warm now. It is times like this that I am glad I work from home and only have to walk the children to school.

  3. Oh wow! I saw your tweets the other day but I didn't realize the scope of what you meant! Holy donkeys. I'm so glad everyone's safe...

  4. I read every single word as a Surrey girl born and bred I felt duty bound to do so.:) No seriously Jess I felt for you as heard all about M25 being grid locked and know Reigate Hill personally, our first home as a married couple was in Reigate. I think it was a blessing you left your son with his grandparents.
    We hear you still have lots of snow.
    Take Care xx

  5. What a nightmare, Jess. Like Jackie, I'm based at home and just have to slide the kids to and fro school - jolly thankful I am too, although we haven't had that much snow here in Belfast - keep safe!

  6. Oh my goodness, what a story. And yours probably wasn't the worst.

    You could have walked those 14 miles... In 3 hours... Well, maybe that wouldn't have been too great either.

    Funny how you worry about your son and he just has a great time at his grandparents.

    We want to go to England (Nottingham) for Christmas (from the Netherlands, via Dover) and my husband wants to travel on Christmas eve. Who thinks that's a good idea?

    I remember one Xmas eve in the snow in a queue that lasted hours and hours. But nothing like your experience. Hope it doesn't happen again.

  7. I love the snow--don't even mind driving in it as long as the roads are cared for properly. A drive like yours, though--how horrid! Although the satellite picture was great. :)

  8. Anna - I think that your snowstorms are 100x worse its just that this caught everyone out and nobody knew who to deal with it. You guys are alot better with these things than we are!

    Jackie - I know! I didn't go in on wednesday but I wish I was a stay at home mum most of the time but especially on tuesday.

    Amanda - oh yeah wasn't exagerrating on twitter ;) I think I was still traumatised when I typed that message.

    Lindy - haha so you know the 'Hill' I'll always look at that hill with a dread now I think. Theres still loads of snow but at least I dont have to drive anywhere now.

    lovely treez - I'm surprised theres not much in Belfast (my dads family is from Belfast)

    leeswammes - thats typical of toddlers though isn't it LOL I don't know what the snows doing at christmas, I mean it could all be gone by then or worse? You can never garantee unfortunately. is the best place to check though.

    Melody - that picture dd make me laugh I have to admit, I've never seen the whole country looking like that.

  9. The same thing happens to me but with wildfires. It's a horrible feeling to be trapped in your car, knowing that you cannot get to your children or even home for that matter.

    So glad that you eventually made it. It snowed last year in the part of California where I work and there were no snow plows. The city simply did not own any. What a mess!

  10. What a nightmare! I can't believe how badly the UK has handled this week of snow. I'm up in Yorkshire and my office has been half empty, the mail isn't being delivered, buses and trains aren't running, and I've seen more stuck cars than anywhere in my life. My hubby hasn't gone to work this week - he normally works from home 3x and goes 2x - but it just didn't seem worth it knowing it would take him a crazy amount of time.

  11. That's awful! There's nothing worse than being stuck in a horrible snow storm. You just want to be home safe with a good book and a cup of somethign hot to drink.

  12. wow... that is terrible!

    Living in Sydney Australia, winter barely gets too cold here and we do not have snow..I am always jealous of those who get a white Christmas and get to enjoy snow. But that does not sound like fun at all.

  13. As a fellow Surrey girl living in the SOuth West I watched the news following how the SE was doing. Glad you made it back safe and sound.

  14. Oh dear! I'm glad everyone was all right in the end. You had quite a time.

    I was also amused by that satellite photo of the UK because it shows us in the middle of the brown patch on the west coast. We had nothing compared with the rest of the country!

  15. Ti - what a nightmare, its always when when a place is complete caught out that this happens.

    Meghan - it happens nearly every year as well! its never been as bad as this and I worry there is more to come. We haven't even hit January yet.

    Avid Reader - oh I was very thankful the next day believe me!

    Rachel - I would love to spend christmas on a beach LOL I'm not just saying that because of what happened I just cope better in nicer weather in general, everyones happier in the sun.

    Anglers Rest - I did just speak to me work friend who said her husband walked from Croydon to Reigate that night and he still got in hours before me LOL

    Marieke now how have you escaped it ;) I cant believe most of the brown bits are in Scotland, thats not right ;)

  16. Oh wow, Jess - what an awful experience!

    We had the snow really bad in Yorkshire last week but fortunately I work from home when I'm not out in meetings (which I cancelled becasue I couldn't get to them) so I watched it all from my office window. You poor thing, I can only imagine how awful that must have been.

  17. "Oh, the weather outside is frightful..." How Scary! I don't mind bundling up for snow, but I do hate driving in it as well. (no worries here in Las Vegas) Glad you made it home safe.

  18. The schools in Fife,Scotland have only just re-opened after being closed for a week and 1 day. We've got about 15 inches of snow but it's now topped by hard packed ice. It was -12 Celsius during the day but it's even worse in central region. I hate the snow too, which is why I prefer the west of Scotland, the worst I've experienced was when we lived in Essex. I enjoyed reading your snow post.

  19. We lived in Guildford before moving down here to Sussex a few years ago so I know how bad conditions can get on the north downs. Let's hope these conditions don't return this week