We had been keeping up with weather forecasts before we left at 5:00 a.m. CST from our home in Mingus, Texas. The weather forecasts on December 23, indicated that the Arctic snow front would pass through the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma, bypassing our route on Interstate 20 to Sweetwater, Roscoe north to Lubbock, then Clovis, Santa Rosa, Santa Fe.
On December 24, we left Mingus, temperature 37 degrees. We first encountered snowflakes in Eastland, Texas, but before that, only minutes out of Ranger, Texas, a Federal Express double-trailer had overturned, indicating, perhaps, high cross winds.
The snowflakes would not subside until we reached Lubbock at 2:00 p.m.
We did not encounter snow accumulating on the road until Sweetwater where we made a rest stop. At Sweetwater, the temperature was below 30 degrees. By the time we reached the turnoff to Roscoe, Texas, then north to Lubbock, the snow had accumulated on the highway and the wind blew the snow to a white out for a few seconds every so often. The turn off at Roscoe was treacherous because a white out suddenly occurred at the intersection and I had to “feel” the turn for a few seconds. At that point, I decided to go into Roscoe and put the cable-chains on the back wheels of the F-250. We also considered staying put and waiting the storm out and Highway Department to clear the roads.
The F-250 I drive is a 2003, the last year they made the 7.3 liter diesel engine. Our F-250 is maintained precisely to the Ford Motor Company’s guidelines, plus a few of our own. As a consequence, we have 240,000 plus miles and it pulls a twenty-six foot tack and stock trailer or a flatbed with a DX-55 Case tractor. We had a full fuel tank, blankets, phones, and food and water.
At Roscoe, I put the chains on and we ventured out again on the highway to Lubbock. At Hermleigh, we stopped at an Allsup’s for a rest stop but the convenience store was closed. Our daughter in Lubbock called by cell and said that there was a thirty-two car pileup at Post, so we first decided to go from Snyder to Lamesa, then Santa Fe by various routes, but the latest reports at Allsup’s from truck drivers indicated that the wreck had been cleared.
The wind turbines at Roscoe and Hermleigh were hidden by the snowstorm, but occasionally the wind would die down and we saw the giant turbines, less than a quarter-of-a-mile away, slowly turning in the storm. Nothing else but snow and the turbines. We maintained a long distance between ourselves and the car or truck in front of us to give us time to stop. Yet, we did not have the respect from cars in back of us. Truckers, however, gave us space. Since we had chains and traction, I could ease over and let cars and trucks pass us. Several cars that passed us we later saw in the ditch or median.
Our speed could not exceed 30 m.p.h. with chains. Finally, at Post, Texas, we stopped and I took off the chains. Between Post and Lubbock, we were diverted by the Highway Department to tour along the access roads and avoid going over bridges. In Slaton, a U.S. Postal Service truck was blocking the overpass because it had no traction and was stalled. We saw several National Guard medical vehicles headed south from where we had come. We later found out that Governor Rick Perry had called out fifty National Guardsmen to assist in rescue efforts.
From Post, then, we had no chains, but the Highway Department had cleared one lane by the early afternoon on the highway.
At Lubbock, we visited with our relatives and left Lubbock at 4:00 p.m. for Santa Fe, arriving at 9:30 p.m. MST.
“Postscript by Brenda: Jack’s writings depict the experience perfectly. What cannot be conveyed completely was the stress and emotions of the eight-hour drive to Lubbock…but, the picture of him above portrays his attentiveness. I was never terribly worried because I knew he was an excellent driver and near obsessive over safety. Yes, I wish we had left a day earlier, but I am happy to be in Santa Fe! Brenda Matthews, 12.28.2009.”