I drove the big truck through a pretty bad storm today. Worst one for me so far! Of course, I don’t have much experience yet, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t just being overly paranoid. Other trucks were driving slow with their 4-ways, too. Other trucks were parking under overpasses and being just as cautious.
It was about 3:00am and I was in Nebraska. It had been raining pretty hard for the past hour already, and the lightning show was impressive, consistent, and actually pretty cool. Then it started raining so hard I had to slow down a little, and I was really starting to notice the water building up on the road. Hydroplaning had already been on my mind, but even more so now. My leg was already feeling the fatigue from not using the cruise all morning when the rain came down even harder. I had to downshift and activate my 4-ways, and I was now travelling 40mph in a 75mph speed zone, but I was still relaxed – no white-knuckling… at least not yet.
I was about 40 miles west of Lincoln when I drove through a couple short bouts of hail. I flipped the radio to the weather band. It was broken up, but I was able to make out “severe thunderstorm warning.” Well, duh! I turned the radio on a local channel in case any new warnings were to come up. That was coming in better than the weather band channels, anyway, which eventually all turned to solid static.
Then these wind gusts started to blow across the road. I felt the truck shift, and I could actually start to see the gusts carrying patches of rain across the road. Then the truck would sway. Then again. I tried to remember what they said at school – was it at 62mph gusts that you need to get off the road and try parking into the wind? 60? I didn’t know what these gusts’ speeds were, anyway, and without taking a hand off the wheel and my eyes off the road to check my phone, I wasn’t going to find out as soon as I wanted, or needed to. From how I was rocking, I was pretty sure getting off the road was probably going to be a good idea. Soon.
I slowed down even more and hollered to wake up Adam. I tried twice, but I could hardly hear myself over the pouring rain and wind. The third time I literally screamed, and he got up. He got on his phone to find out that there were potential damaging winds up to 60mph in the area. We started to feel it even more. The truck was actually feeling tippy with each gust – like at any moment the driver’s-side tires might inch up off the road. Okay… NOW I was gripping that steering wheel as if I could hold the truck down the harder I grasped it.
We started scoping out off ramps, underpasses and the one rest area too far up the road. The first two overpasses we went under were already occupied by other truckers, 4-ways barely flashing their way through the rain. Then I saw the faint line of another underpass coming up. I turned on my turn signal and made my way over to the side of the road, but I pulled up a little too far and could still feel the wind pushing us back and forth as the gusts came over the road. I waited until there was no traffic behind me and backed up about half the length of our rig. Ahhh, still windy, but MUCH calmer. Brakes set. Not moving.
We sat under that overpass for maybe 10 minutes with a FedEx double behind us and a couple of cars on the other side. Even cars were getting out of the wind! It started to die down just a little bit, and I head out to that rest area up the road. I was able to decompress a little and let the color come back into my knuckles.
Then just like that, the winds died down, the downpour turned to a drizzle and it brightened up a little.
Whoooo! What a freaky ride, man! Times like this I am SO thankful to have Adam here with me. We both know neither of us ever have to worry about waking the other up if we need them. I’m glad he was up with me through the worst of that storm…
…and glad I made it to the rest area – for more reasons than one!
Tonight I love lightning. I know it can be damaging, but it sure is pretty on the horizon when it’s still dark out!
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!