Winter has arrived...
...and it seems to have a serious inferiority complex with regard to the Dallas summer.
This all coincided with the end of exams for the semester. We’ve all now managed to get through what we’re told is the hardest quarter of the MA/MBA program. It was a tough series of exams too, each of which had tricky challenges to overcome.
The final exam was a night exam, so many of us did not finish until close to 10pm. At which point we all went directly to the bar for a celebratory drink. Normally the end-of-exam drinks are scheduled a day later, but we had all heard that a big ice storm was expected to hit the next day with freezing rain, and nobody was prepared to take any chances of missing out on a party.
The next day was brutally cold, and I was still holding out some hope that the end-of-exam party would take place that evening, but as the day wore on the sky became darker, and the air became sharper with the onset of the rain. Soon after it became clear that all parties were going to be cancelled. The rain got heavier through the evening, and lasted all night.
The next morning was a sight to behold. The entire area outside was coated in a glaze of solid ice. Icicles had formed on all the plants, and the grass was covered in an inch-thick layer of ice. Some of the neighbours were slipping around on the footpaths as they walked their dogs. A flag flying from a nearby building had become frozen, such that when it flapped against itself it made a giant cracking sound.
My housemate Jack had left his car here for the holidays, and had parked it under one of the trees. A branch had partly snapped, and was hanging precariously above the car, like a wooden sword of Damocles. A quick call to Jack and I was granted the rare permission to drive his car to safety.
This was not an easy task – both the roadway and the car were covered in a thick layer of ice. It was impossible to scrape the ice from the windshield, and even getting the door open was an effort. The car struggled to start in the cold, but eventually came to life, and I inched it slowly backwards away from the danger. With all the windows blocked, I was forced to have the door open, moving the car about a metre, stopping, poking my head out of the car to make sure nobody was coming, and then moving the car once more. Eventually I got it parked in a new, treeless spot.
This would normally not be too difficult, but the ice storm had left such a large amount of ice on the rails and wires that the entire light rail system had shut down, replaced by buses. It was a chilly walk from my apartment to the nearest station. The nearby main roads had been cleared of the worst of the ice, and traffic was flowing reasonably well.
About 9pm that evening we then got the worst news – the airport was virtually closed, and our flights were cancelled. We stayed up until 3am on hold, desperately trying to get rebooked. Eventually we were placed on flights two days later, meaning we would miss the start of our training at the Disney Institute.
The owner of the restaurant rushed out with a bucket of hot water, and even though I’m from a country that doesn’t get ice storms, I knew that was the worst thing to do – the water would simply refreeze. Adam and I ran out to stop him but it was too late, the water had already been thrown down, and had immediately frozen up, at which point the restaurant owner took to attacking the ice with a hammer, but to no avail. Eventually someone procured a bag of sand, and they were able to move the truck out.
We headed back to Adam’s place, again making sure not to drive too fast lest we lose traction. We then settled in for another tense wait.
It took over an hour to drive what would normally be 20 minutes or so, but we made it intact. On arrival we met up with a few more of the MBA students going to Disney World, and shared stories of what had been dubbed the “Iceocalypse” of 2013.
Our flight was delayed getting in, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief as it pulled up to the gate. We got on, got seated, and watched as the de-icing crew got to work removing the accumulated ice from the wings before we could finally take off and leave the ice behind. Two hours later we were in Orlando, where it was warm to the point of being uncomfortable. Not that we minded.
We had escaped.
What happened next was truly amazing… but I’ll leave the Disney World experience for next week.