Last week I laughed long and hard at a post on phobias, especially aroraphobia – the fear of the Northern Lights. I laughed because I didn’t see myself as a fearful person. Then came today.
Today the local weathermen have one word for central Arkansas, ICE. Even though I’m warm and cozy and sipping a nice hot cup of lemon ginger herbal tea, I’m getting a little anxious. I see ice for what it really is – a transparent, terror-wielding monster.
Go back to Christmas 2000. I am at my mother’s home in Hot Springs preparing to enjoy the fabulous brunch at the historic Arlington Hotel when Mom says the weather is getting bad. If I don’t get home now, I might not make it back to Little Rock for a week.
I load my clothes, my Christmas goodies and my dog Oscar and strike out in my Bordeaux Pearl Red Honda Accord. Have you ever started on a path you think might be a major mistake? That’s how I feel as I turned onto Hwy 70. “I’ll just take it slowly.”
Traffic is scarce, but I drive slower than the 55 mph speed limit. I am going so slowly I might get a ticket even though there’s no minimum, but apparently law enforcement vehicles are smart enough to stay off the road in this weather.
Thirty minutes later I reach the Lonsdale Rest Area about nine miles out. I breathe a sigh of relief. Ice and snow are scary in Arkansas because few of us know how to drive on it. Even if you can control your car, you worry about others on the road who can’t. If you’ve ever been in a wreck that totaled your car or injured you, you’re aware of what a wreck can mean.
Should I keep going or turn back? Though it means driving through scarcely populated wooded areas, I keep driving. My next goal is the Interstate. Surely the Interstate will be better.
It takes three times the normal thirty minutes to reach I-30. Did I mention I am going slowly? My nerves are as tight as my clenched teeth.
Should I stay on the Interstate or get off on the access road? I am still wavering when a car ahead of me spins out of control and plunges down the grassy slope that supports the road.
The off ramp is a good decision. When cars line up behind me, I simply pull off into the first available, and hopefully graveled for increased traction, off-road space.
Miraculously, I pull into my driveway safely. It has taken four hours instead of the normal one. I am weak and shaky as I carry Oscar inside. As I unload my car, I slip and fall on top of a shoe box I am carrying. After my icy ordeal, sore ribs seem like nothing.
The ice continues. State government is shut down. 300,000-500,000 (depending on which stats you read) Arkansans, including me, are out of power for days. One day I reach my cold tolerance. “If my power isn’t on tonight, I’m renting a motel room.” What a sight it is when I spot my lit doorbell. I have power!
With a storm just two weeks earlier, this ice storm is viewed as the worst natural disaster in the history of Arkansas. Did it leave me with pagophobia, an intense, irrational fear of ice? No. But last fall I spent mega-bucks to drastically clip my gargantuan red-tip Photinias away from power lines to my home. There’s no harm in taking precautions.