About last night …

Alternate Title: The weatherpeople all shit the bed.

Alternate Alternate Title: Salt Trucks. DO THEY EXIST? [X-Files Music]

Yesterday evening as my husband and I prepared to leave our children with the sitter so we could head down to the Pens game, the skies, forecast to remain closed until the early morning hours at which time they might give us 1-3 inches of snow, suddenly opened up and projectile vomited forth a wind-whipped blizzard of giant clumpy snowflakes.

I hate being in a car during a snowstorm and my husband hates being in a car with me during a snowstorm because I tend to freak out from residual trauma from an icy bridge spin in Arkansas — state motto: Nightmares happen here. And then you die.

I am such a terrible snow passenger that he created a drinking game on the way to the arena.

Each time I said, “Honey. Be careful.” he pretended to take one shot.

Each time I slammed my open hand against my car door attempting to brace myself for the certain vehicular catastrophe we would experience traveling at 30 mph, he pretended to take two shots.

Each time I said with panic while pumping an imaginary passenger side brake, “Leave more room for stoppage!” he pretended to take three shots.

And each time I put my head between my knees and said any manner of “Oh, sweet Jesus.” or “Ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease,” he pretended to drink the whole bottle.

While those to the north of the city at this time (about 5:40 p.m.) were tweeting how horrible the roads were, coming from the East actually wasn’t bad at all. Just slushy, really.

Sitting in the arena during the game, we periodically checked the weather and tweets, etc. only to read increasingly worrisome things like “Shit. Spun out.” or “Couldn’t make it home. Crashing at a friend’s house.” or “Tunnels shut down. WTF?” or “HELL HAS COME, ALL YE PEOPLE OF PITTSBURGH. WHERE IS YOUR GROUNDHOG GOD NOW?”

We left the arena after the second period …

Yes. We are the worst fans in the history of the Penguins. We don’t deserve the tickets. We don’t deserve the opportunity to be there. We should not be allowed to call ourselves Penguins fans, etc. etc. etc.

We had a sitter waiting for us. She needed to get home. We’re going to talk about this “PEOPLE WHO LEAVE EARLY ARE ASSHOLE BANDWAGON FANS” mentality another time, because it needs to be talked about, but this post is about driving through hell on untouched roads, not asshole bandwagon fans like me.

So just for now, put aside your indignation at me and many parents like me who dare to leave a game early. You can stone me later. Here, I’ll hang my head in shame for a second if that’ll help.

[hangs head in shame]

We left the arena to be met with exactly what the Penguins of Madagascar found upon arriving in Antartica. Suck.

So much snowy suck. Are we walking on the street or the sidewalk? Who can know because the roads hadn’t been touched downtown.

The Parkway looked like this:

Then we hit the other side of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels to find a giant snowy parking lot. No one was going anywhere. We gave up around 10:00 and headed to a nearby Eat n Park to wait out whatever it was that stopped everything. In this case, it turned out to be a jackknifed tractor trailer at the Forest Hills exit, we were told.

We weren’t the only thing that quit at 10:00. The buses gave up too, probably stranding lots of real, non-asshole bandwagon fans at the arena.

One hour, two cups of coffee and a shared Grilled Stickies a la Mode later, the Parkway was crawling again, so we sent the babysitter a text and ventured back out to attempt another run at home.

It was ridiculous. Not one salt truck or plow spotted. Cars spun out. Trucks mired in snow drifts. People abandoning their cars.

I realize this storm was unexpected. I realize it was a holiday. But this morning, some eight hours after the snow stopped, downtown streets were still covered in an inch or more of snow and ice. Eight or nine hours after accumulation stopped and the city was still almost entirely snow-covered, including the primary routes. Major arteries just clogged with artery-clogging snow.  And “emergency routes”? I’m beginning to think that means “In case of emergency, this road will be a fun place to sit and watch screaming, terrified people do 360s in the snow. BYOPopcorn.”

We did make it home safely last night after midnight. Between the door slaps and the PLEASE BE CAREFULs and the Oh, sweet baby Jesus in heaven I DO NOT WANT TO DIE TONIGHTs, my husband had approximately 244 “shots” over the 16 harrowing, treacherous miles home.

And we aren’t even counting the times as we prepared to descend a steep hill that I sincerely requested he try to render me unconscious with a Vulcan nerve pinch.

That’s just off the drinking game charts. That’s on the “My Wife Done Lost Her Mind” charts.

Okay, you may stone me now. I just ask that before you do it, you try the Vulcan nerve pinch on me.


  1. Sheila
    February 22, 2011 3:29 pm

    I know this isn’t the post about leaving games early (and hell I do it too) but I will admit when I saw your tweet last night the thought crossed my mind – “how is she on the road already?”

    Took my coworkers over 3 hours to get home to Gibsonia from the game.

    The only plows I saw were private, no city or township. Funny I heard the PennDot guy on the radio around 6 pm saying they were prepared for this and had salted early and all the plows were out and wondered what city he was talking about!

  2. Just A Simple Man
    February 22, 2011 3:50 pm

    Left the game last night at 10:15. Got to the McKnight road exit off of 279 at 11:30….
    Why would people stop their cars in the middle of three lanes, put on the flashers and walk away? Dropped my friends off on McKnight and proceeded north to Beaver County. Normal 45 minute trek 2hrs and 20 minutes.

    But we did not leave early!!!!!!!!!!

  3. PK
    February 22, 2011 4:10 pm

    About those “Emergency Snow Routes,” which should have quotation marks hovering over every sign. The Fifth Avenue “Emergency Snow Route” last night was at a crawl. Took ten minutes to move one block. Then, this morning the Bigelow Boulevard “Emergency Snow Route” was covered with icy ruts because, well, it’s still winter and the sun hasn’t risen high enough over the Hill to melt the snow…which is I think what Public Works’ new “Phase 2” snow plan is based on…just wait until the sun comes out and melts the shite.

    At least we know Lukey was in town, albeit in Greenfield fulfilling his Super Bowl bet.

    Whatever. Summer can’t get here fast enough. By then we’ll just have the potholes to deal with.

  4. Jenny
    February 22, 2011 4:23 pm

    You should have stayed at the game. My brother-in-law & niece did. They had to return to Connellsville. They got home after midnight. I realize hindsight is 20/20; I’m certain you would have taken the game over Grilled Stickies, even if they were a la mode.

  5. Tracey
    February 22, 2011 4:24 pm

    A normal 15 minute ride from Mt. Lebanon to Mt. Washington took over an hour. I detoured off the main roads and took side roads which though snow covered, I was able to make my way around and finally made it home. THough this morning, Mt.Washington main roads were clear.

  6. hello haha narf
    February 22, 2011 4:25 pm

    emergency snow routes are just like airport friskings…there to make you feel that you are safer when in fact you are not. bastards.

  7. mfj
    February 22, 2011 4:35 pm

    All I was thinking last night was, “Josie Dimon’s back on the job. That means somebody in Hazelwood is going to die tonight.”

  8. Pa-Pop
    February 22, 2011 4:37 pm

    Last night my wife left Akron for home in Youngstown at 4:30 and walked in the door at 9…more time than it typically takes to drive to Detroit.

  9. lisa
    February 22, 2011 4:45 pm

    I left Cranberry early at 3;45, during the height of the heavy snow out here. It was AWEFUL!! No plows anywhere, none. It took 1 hour and 20 mins to do a drive that is usually 25 mins! I live on a state maintained road, as of 11 pm last night, not one plow. This morning on my way to work, the roads looked almost as bad. They sooo messed this one up.

  10. BeauJacques
    February 22, 2011 4:49 pm

    That G20 $12 MILLION would have been nice to tap for covering HOLIDAY EMERGENCY snow removal don’t you think?

    Skeleton crews on duty, no OK for OT pay to deal with it as it accelerated past predictions!!

    At least no one died up front!!

    Downtown to Mt. Leb with wheelchair person, 2.5 hours.

  11. Scott
    February 22, 2011 4:51 pm

    I have two comments, neither of which I expect to be well received, but oh well.

    First, props to the O’Hara Township road crews. I went to bed at 10:30 and our street had been plowed/salted 6 times already by then. Impressive…kudos fellas.

    Second, I found a great way to outflank both the idiotic weather people and spotty road clearing by driving a proper all wheel drive vehicle. I’d rather not specify what vehicle, for fear of further comment blow back, but suffice to say, I have never…not once…had even a hint of trouble on snowy roads since we got it. 8 inches of unplowed snow on a steep hill? No problem. Amazing and a great way to eliminate the need to rely on plows or meteorologists. I actually look forward to snow now, just so I can drive in it.

  12. BeauJacques
    February 22, 2011 4:57 pm

    @Scott- OK whiz kid, I’ve lived in the Sierras, northern New England, dealt with much worse snow than this, it’s the vehicles that BLOCK you, get stuck or have accidents in front of you!!

    I don’t care if you drive a fucking Sno-Cat, it’s the city, county, muni govs, not having the $$ to pay the OT!

  13. empirechick
    February 22, 2011 5:01 pm

    My work-to-home commute from Cranberry to Rt 8 (Butler County) is typically 20 minutes, last night it was 45. BUT, I stayed at work until 9:00 to allow everyone else to get off the roads. A friend made the exact same trip @ 5:00 and it took him 2-1/2 hours.

    And I’m with Scott about all-wheel drive – I love my little Subaru! It goes anywhere, and the only problems I usually encounter are from other drivers, not the snow.

  14. mfj
    February 22, 2011 5:01 pm

    Subaru. Feel the love.

  15. Lauren
    February 22, 2011 5:03 pm

    While I am one of those who subscribe to the “you should not leave sporting events early” belief, I also subscribe to the “you should be safe and responsible in crappy weather” belief.

    The people at sporting events who really irk me are the ones who stroll in halfway through the first period, stare at their blackberry for most of the night, and then leave early to “beat traffic.” Somewhere, there is a little girl or boy sitting at home, or worse, sitting in a hospital, wishing with all the wishes in their little heart that they could feel the exhilaration and fun of attending a Penguins game. And then there’s the schmuck in a suit who took the opportunity for granted because he (or she) knows there will be other tickets, probably in the near future.

    You, Ginny, are most certainly NOT one of those schmucks (and I hope my tweet last night came across in jest and not as a serious jab). You are a responsible parent, and not all parents can say that.

    Bottom line: I’m glad you got home safely last night, despite the face your knuckles might be a bit sore today from clenching your fists during the car ride.

  16. BeauJacques
    February 22, 2011 5:11 pm

    @Scott, AKA Snow White-

    QED, it only takes one jack-knifed trailer, or rear-wheel drive car with bald tires to block a road which is why it’s imperative to keep the roads plowed and salted.

    Have fun in O’hare, stay there.

  17. Scott
    February 22, 2011 5:15 pm

    BoJack, your first comment was enough to make your point, you didn’t need to circle back to drop a second of your little love dumplings. Obviously based on comments from others who agree with me, we’re doing something right. If the road is blocked, turn around and find another route.

    empirechick, mfj….you know what I’m talking about.

  18. BeauJacques
    February 22, 2011 5:18 pm

    again, obtuse one, YES! 4-wheel drives ARE great! Everyone should have one, preferably with heavy winter treads, but,,,
    not everyone EVER will, neither will trucks!

    Soo…, guess what?

    Streets have to plowed!

    Stop talking like an ignorant kid with his first mountain bike who’s figured out it will steer in dirt!

  19. Scott
    February 22, 2011 5:21 pm

    BoJack….You need to take the pills EVERY morning.

  20. Al Lambrini
    February 22, 2011 5:40 pm

    Seems to me that snow removal is more or less the same as it was in the 70s in this town. The only thing that has changed is the fact that more people live further out, drive more, thus putting a ton more cars on the road and all the while people have a lot less patience then they used to. It snowed 8.5 inches last night do you think it would have been any easier in 1977 in your amc hornet?

  21. Julie
    February 22, 2011 5:42 pm

    So…I was making the same journey as you Ginny, only a few hours earlier.

    I was stopped at the entrance to the Squirrel Hill tunnel around 7:45pm. We were stopped to allow the deployment of 6 snow plows/salt trucks. I followed them, going 20 mph, from the tunnel to the Monroeville exit. NONE of them dropped their plows or dropped any salt. Had the drivers looked in their rearview mirrors, they would have seen all of us struggling to drive cautiously on a snowy Parkway East. They did nothing. Seems like a waste of money to have trucks driving on the parkway doing nothing in the middle of a snowstorm.

  22. Kristin
    February 22, 2011 7:07 pm

    Everyone says we were surprised by this, but yesterday morning at 5 am, Demetrius Ivory was telling the WTAE viewers that we would get freezing rain, followed by 6″ of snow and it would all start in time to mess up rush hour. I was supposed to have a 4:40 pm flight yesterday, and I kept checking to see if it would be canceled or delayed, and when it wasn’t I began to think I was the only one who paid any attention to to forecast that morning. Apparently I was.

  23. Scott
    February 22, 2011 7:18 pm


    I didn’t see the WTAE broadcast (we’re a WPXI household) but every other weather outlet, including the Big Kahuna, The National Weather Service, totally botched the forecast, calling for 1″-3″ overnight, starting late.

    To be fair, the road crews rely on these forecasts too, so in this case it is hard to put the blame on them for not being prepared to deal with blizzard conditions at rush hour…a full 6 hours before the snow was forecast to start falling. They, like us, are at the mercy of the Julie Baloney’s of the world.

  24. BeauJacques
    February 22, 2011 7:38 pm


    Got your pill hanging goofball!

  25. pghsciencenerd
    February 22, 2011 7:49 pm

    I decided to spend the night with a friend who lives within walking distance of my workplace in Oakland. Conditions were so bad there that even the Pitt shuttles stopped running early. Two points:
    1. I often thought “wow, they really dropped the ball on this one” at several points during this winter. Did they really “have the ball” in the first place? I’m beginning to think not.

    2. I received my road conditions via Twitter, not the news. If I only paid attention to the news, I wouldn’t have known that the Tunnel Monster pretty much swallowed up the entire Parkway and DOOM DOOM DOOM awaited drivers. Granted, I only followed the websites because I don’t have access to at TV at work, but I can’t believe there wasn’t a more urgent effort to relay how bad things were. Twitter told me McKnight was shut down at least a good 30-45 minutes before it showed up on the news.

  26. Butcher's Dog
    February 22, 2011 8:26 pm

    If roads aren’t being plowed because the budget has been spent, increase the budget next year! It’s just irresponsible for politicians to pretend the snow won’t be bad enough to set aside enough money to pay the freight if it is bad enough. No responsible homeowner would do that for his/her home. City/county officials shouldn’t do it, either. If you budget too much and have money left over, keep it for the next year. It’s pretty simple, really. Too bad the simpletons don’t get it.

  27. facie
    February 22, 2011 8:55 pm

    Ginny, as someone else said, you def get a pass for having to leave early. Unfortunately, I guess you did not miss Ovie’s goal. :-(

    I did not hear Demetrius’s saying we would get 6″ of snow. I did, however, read Monday’s PG, which called for “little to no accumulation” yesterday. KDKA used to have the 14-day outlook (I think the name was eventually changed to “temperature trend”). Glad they got rid of that. If you can’t predict the weather a day in advance, what is the purpose of 14 days out (or 5, really)?!

  28. Judy
    February 22, 2011 11:11 pm

    The forecast I heard yesterday morning was for 3-5 inches. The fact that we got 8″ should not excuse PennDot or the city of Pittsburgh for their ineptness. I’m sick and tired of their excuses nearly everytime it snows.

  29. Kevin
    February 23, 2011 12:40 am

    Anyone notice that the source of the correlation between this storm’s shitty road clearing and the shitty road clearing during last Feb’s Snowmageddon? They both happened on days off.

    I’m not quite sure why we as taxpayers should even have to pay OT for plowing on holidays and weekends. When you take a job that might involve driving a plow truck, don’t you sort of know that it might involve some unusual hours for a few storms every year? It’s not like they’re working in a factory and had to stick around to cover a shift for someone who unexpectedly got sick. The kids I had working for me in the army knew they’d have some weird hours; no one ever suggested they should get time-and-a-half when they were flying enroute to a 3 a.m. parachute jump to kick off a four-day exercise in the rain and cold.

  30. empirechick
    February 23, 2011 1:31 am

    I give PennDot a pass for not being able to cldear at rush hour, because by the time the snow really started to come down (at least in the North Hills), cars were already jamming the roads. Plows can’t move any faster than the cars in front of them, which, in my area, was not at all. My friend’s 20 min. trip that took 2.5 hours wasn’t solely because of conditions, it was because of conditions AND traffic.

    However, I was surprised at how generally uncleared the roads were at 9:30 last night AND still this morning, and I’m not an early riser.

  31. empirechick
    February 23, 2011 1:38 am

    PS: There was a day when everyone around here had rear-wheel drive cars, and we all survived somehow. (Remember how much fun those donuts were in the school parking lot??) Snow is not new, nor should it be reason to panic. Yes, I love my all-wheel Subaru, but front wheel drive cars are way better in the snow than what we used to have. Now, everyone is either paralyzed by fear or just f’in forgot how to drive.

    (Yes, I know how old I sound – now, get the hell off my lawn.)

  32. Bitter
    February 23, 2011 2:13 am

    @ Scott – I’m feeling the love for O’Hara right now too! I live at the bottom of a rather steep hill. I got home last night around 5:30 and the road was completely covered. I slid the whole way up the hill and was just about to park my car at the top and walk down when TADA! Snow plow and salt truck, just in time. The road was completely clear this morning as well, as opposed to, say, Freeport Road, which was total crap.

    I would so have an Outback if I could afford one.

  33. empirechick
    February 23, 2011 2:40 am

    PPS: Ginny’s twitter feed says: The problem with your 30s is that your metabolism declines at the exact same rate as your willpower.

    THIS. Absolutely the most true words ever spoken. THIS. IS. CHURCH.

  34. LLDoc
    February 23, 2011 9:36 am

    I have to completely agree with Scott on the AWD thing…Come move to Johnstown – our roads are usually snow covered until May. We’ve just learned to deal with it. We had over a foot of snow on Monday and our kids still went to school on Tuesday!

  35. Scott
    February 23, 2011 10:23 am

    Sorry for the multiple comments, but a couple of more thoughts on this:

    When it is snowing over an inch per hour, there is no way to keep the roads clear, period. It was snowing at this rate from before 5pm until late at night. Also, when the temp is hovering right at freezing, ice forms, in Monday’s case, a lot of ice. Nothing road crews can do to clear that quickly either.

    Cut these guys some slack. While it would be nice to live in Utopia, we don’t. Stuff happens. You’ve just got to deal with it. Part of that is getting a vehicle that can deal with the snow and/or learning to drive in it.

  36. #1 WI Steeler Fan
    February 23, 2011 10:26 am

    Two comments-
    1. Why is it called Eat n Park- don’t you park first then eat?
    2. Who won the hockey game?

    Glad you got home okay and in one piece, Ginny- what you described is normal for a Wisconsin winter.

  37. Scott
    February 23, 2011 10:39 am

    WI Steeler fan, it is also normal for a Pittsburgh winter.

  38. Dan (Not Onorato)
    February 23, 2011 10:54 am

    Although I loathe my car, I have to say my Malibu with all season tires on it did well in the snow covered roads of the north hills.

    Still doesnt make me want to NOT get rid of it though…just sayin

  39. Julie
    February 23, 2011 11:18 am

    WI Steeler Fan –

    1. It’s called Eat N Park because back when it first started, they had carhops and came to your car with the food, so you could “Eat N Park” at the same time.

    2. The pens lost 1-0. Poop.

  40. Silica
    February 23, 2011 11:24 am

    @Scott – I agree with you! Thankfully, we only get storms like this once in a while, and truthfully, I was pretty impressed with the city plowing in the South Hills this time around. When I got to work in Oakland, I was a little less pleased, but I know side streets, I know my car’s capabilities (I drive a Camry), and most importantly – I don’t freak out in the snow.

    Of course, when I got my permit it was January in the lovely snow belt area of upstate New York. People who live in Pittsburgh should expect snow, but it isn’t quite the same as living in an area where they do spend crap tons of money on snow removal every year because they always know they’re going to get it.

    But the main problem is definitely other drivers. I was stuck behind a man in a Focus yesterday for about 15 minutes at a traffic light going uphill. He motioned for me to go around, but my tires kept spinning because I was trying to go off the established tire tracks (and there were other cars coming in the other direction!) If I wasn’t 8 months pregnant, I would have gotten out of my car and offered to push his – but he just gave a person from the street who offered the finger, so, you know. Being neighborly is nice. I eventually managed to back up and get enough traction to turn around. Because I didn’t panic.

  41. bucdaddy
    February 23, 2011 12:05 pm

    How is it that the “Severe Weather Teams” and the TV “meteorologists” who just LIVE for this kind of thing so they can scare the bejeezus out of everybody, who can turn 1/8 inch of snow into the end of the world, who can clear all area grocery store shelves of toilet paper with a single word: How is it possible that these geniuses (with the possible exception of Demetrius Ivory) with all their fancy-shmancy Doppler Radar, these people who are allotted about 20 minutes of valuable air time out of every 60 minutes to spend most of it telling us that a warm front is moving through Belize, and it’s raining outside, misjudge a record freaking snowfall?

    Also: BoJack is right, it only takes one moron.

  42. Amanda
    February 23, 2011 12:40 pm

    We were home (thanks to a sick child and holiday both our jobs observe). Husband looked out the window and said “OMG, it is pooping snow” and I made fun of him, acting as though he never saw snow before. I had to eat my words when I got up to look. It was fierce. Glad you made it home safe!

  43. Cassie
    February 23, 2011 1:47 pm

    @Scott, WORD. I live in Indiana Twp and I heard the plow trucks go past my little cul de sac at least 3 times. Our roads were crystal clear.

    Freeport, though? And any road in Natrona Heights? Ouch.

  44. Chet
    February 23, 2011 2:54 pm

    The weather people and the Bread/Eggs/Milk people must have been in a tif since we had no realistic heads-up on this one.

  45. NAM
    February 23, 2011 4:46 pm

    I had tickets to the game last night and was not able to make it, so I feel your pain. Although I can’t afford season tickets, I never miss a game on t.v., so I am definitely not “bandwagon”. But, by the time I made it home to the North last night, and was then supposed to head back for the game, my nerves just couldn’t handle it. Probably better anyway, because I would have either been stranded on the McKnight exit, or forced to spend money to stay at one of the hotels near the Consol.

  46. matt pritt
    February 23, 2011 9:53 pm

    What I like most about weather events such as these is that prior to said event you are asked to tune into channel such and such with their bazillion gigawatt doppler skywatch radar with its pinpoint accuracy down to the centimeter when obviously investing in something as simple as a window (See that out there, that’s snow) would probably be more appropriate. Then, after botching the forecast, they brag about their coverage of the event in future promos as if they spoke to Joe DeNardo in a dark parking garage and he handed them the Watergate papers, when their coverage mainly consisted of getting it wrong in the first place and then reading postings on their station’s Facebook page as if it were news in lieu of actual reporting.

  47. NewBurgher
    February 24, 2011 12:44 am

    In anticipation of moving up here, we purchased two Nissan SUV’s, years apart, both with 4 wheel drive. (Don’t give me grief, one is a 97 and has over 160K miles on it.) Moved up here, and I was really amazed at how many of you people drive regular “Texas” cars in this crap all winter. I don’t know how you do it – seriously, how do you even manage to get out of these driveways without all wheel or 4WD? Granted, I decided we weren’t going to drive “regular” cars up here 12 years ago when on my 2nd visit to Pgh, we slammed into an 8 point buck outside of Ligonier, and would have been dead if we hadn’t been in a Blazer – but still, if I didn’t have the 4WD now – I’d never leave the house during the winter. Or rutting season.

  48. empirechick
    February 24, 2011 1:25 am

    @matt pritt: you hit the nail on the head. Why don’t you post here more often?? :-)

  49. bucdaddy
    February 24, 2011 2:11 am

    Now hold on, empirechick, he said basically what I said, but almost 10 hours later. He said it a bunch better, but still … credit where it’s due.

    Joe DiNardo, hee. Joe used to live next door to my (only) friend Frank in high school. Never met Joe but I’ve seen his house.

  50. empirechick
    February 24, 2011 11:01 am

    bucdaddy, I’m practically president of your fan club! But it doesn’t hurt to encourage the whippersnappers when they have a good post, right?