The weather is getting tricky. Adam and I squeaked out of a mess just in the nick of time on this last run, but now we’re turning around and heading right back into it. I just hope things calm and clear by the time we go through again – but I’m not holding my breath. Or letting my guard down.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t snow. The roads were dry and the sky was blue. We got held up from the invisible weather danger – the wind.
Apparently Wyoming is famous for high wind warnings. There are these giant marquees set up on the roads warning drivers of wind gust speeds. 35+ mph and we need to be careful as a high-profile vehicle. Especially if we’re loaded light or empty. But 55+ mph and we’re talking rollover risk. This is what we were facing this time. Scary stuff.
I’m finding that we are going to be facing some seriously stressful situations dealing with weather, and I’m not at all surprised by that. The worst part of it all, I think, is the decision-making process. Do I continue? Is it safe? Will I make it through without incident?
The reason these decisions are so stressful is this: no matter WHAT the situation is, if you drive into weather and roll over because of wind, or slide off the road, or slip into a jacknife – whatever – the driver is at fault. Period. There are no excuses or justifications. It simply means you made the wrong choice and shouldn’t have driven on.
Unfortunately the decision to shut down is rarely cut and dry. If we shut down every time the roads got a little rough, we’d never get anywhere. So the stressful decision-making starts coming into play, and there is always going to be some risk involved when choosing to go on. Even if conditions are only kind of bad. Even if everyone else is going on, too. And risk with these potential consequences we’re facing? Scary.
In Wyoming, we pulled over because marquees were warning of wind gusts 50+ mph. The signs stated “advise against light trailers.” We can max out at 80,000 pounds, but we were only pulling 53,000. That’s pretty light, but it’s not exactly empty, either. Decision time.
My first question was, “what is light, exactly?” I’ve heard several numbers, but the best explanation I’ve heard is this: if you tip over, you were too light. This means if signs say no light trailers, but your load is maxed out at 80,000 pounds, and you tip over – you were too light. I suppose you can see where I’m going with this.
The decision gets very stressful because in some situations, no matter what you choose to do, it could be the wrong choice. But you won’t know until you make it.
We were on that fine line. We parked for a few hours to see if conditions might improve, or maybe there’d just be a break in the wind with enough time to get out of danger. While we were stopped we napped (these past couple of weeks have wreaked havoc on our sleep schedules, so we’ve been grabbing naps whenever possible!). After napping, I got up and started searching for information to help me decide what to do.
Originally the wind advisories were going to lift by that evening. We could still make our delivery if we waited it out. After our nap the advisory was moved out to the following morning, so now if we waited we’d miss our delivery. The decision quickly became a little more dire, and a bit tougher. I put a post out on a facebook trucking page to get some feedback. I downloaded a few weather apps and checked them on a pretty consistent loop. I called 511. I checked the WY DOT website. I observed what kind of trucks were coming OUT of the windy section. (Double trailers and empty cattle trucks carry higher rollover risk, so they’d be the first to shut down.) How many other truckers were on the road? I wondered how heavy they were. I even walked across the road to a truck stop to question other truckers, but there wasn’t anyone in the lounge. Oh, and we’re in a loaner truck, so we don’t have a CB.
I eventually made the decision to go.
The potential wind gusts were bad, but they were going to get much, much worse. Like 70+ mph worse. This would probably CLOSE the highway down. It was also supposed to start snowing. We’d be stuck for days if we stayed. But I had to question if conditions NOW were still safe. The weatherband was listing wind gust speeds by mile marker, and the highest was 47 mph coming out of the west – at our back, which is good. While still a little sketchy, I felt this was my best window to move. It was going to get a lot worse, but I felt okay right now. I texted a fellow driver experienced with this route, and she confirmed my decision to go, but told me to go slow, and stop for a breather if needed. So off I went.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad at all. I hit a couple of gusty spots when the road curved southeast, catching a few cross-winds, but they only just leaned on me a little. I was receiving text updates from 511, and just 20 miles past Laramie they CLOSED the road to light trailers. It had already gotten worse. But it was behind me now.
We got out just in the nick of time.
Since then my text updates listed more closures, accidents reported, slick roads, blowing snow, black ice, reduced visibility…
That’s all I can say about that.
And here I sit, safe and sound at our receiver getting our light leafy greens unloaded. On time.
I suppose I could’ve caught a bad gust and these leafy greens could’ve been blowin’ away with the 75mph winds, but they’re not. I took a bit of a risk, but I took the smallest I could in the situation, and came out okay.
Weather can be pretty scary! I have a feeling it’s going to be a long winter!
Tonight I love naps. I’ve never needed naps like I do with this job. Absolutely necessary, and equally wonderful.