Wednesday, December 14, 2016. https://youtu.be/37XGQdltQDw
As us drivers were leaving for our afternoon runs, the snow had started blowing, some. We were told to drive our normal routes , no inclement weather routes. Okay. Many of our buses have “Onspot” chains or automatic drop down chains. https://youtu.be/EwLCOqIUvsU.
All my elementary passengers were loaded and ready to head to the next school. Many of my passengers leave and transfer to other buses. I am usually left with 35-42 students.
On the way to the transfer school I was nervous going down the steep driveway. There was no way I could get to the speed of 5 mph in order to activate my “Onspot” chains, so I proceeded rather cautiously. As soon as I gained enough speed I flipped up the cover and pushed up the lever to turn on my “Onspot” chains. How thankful I was to feel the bump of the chains under my tires and hear wonderful sound of the jingling chains. There were many cars, on that 10 minute stretch of icy road, that swerved in front of me. After all, who wants to be behind a school bus ??? I am always thrilled that my chains may be breaking up the ice, making for better traction for those who follow in my path.
We arrived safely at our transfer point. “Onspot” chains do not have to be cancelled when the bus is stopped, when the bus starts to move again, the chains go into action. This time was different. As I was taking my left out of the school, I saw cars slide driving down the slight hill. I could not hear the any chain noise. Finally, they kicked in. I made it up the hill took a careful right and then the chains were quiet, again. I was heading to another steep incline and a right turn. With no chain noise. I decided to take an immediate left. I wanted to get onto the main road from a flat area. The signaled intersection was awful for all vehicles. I had given myself enough room to keep moving forward, carefully and slowly. I had not shut off my chains, they remained silent. Then, I heard their pleasant jingle noise. I would be fine. After-all, my route had gone through such drastic changes that I didn’t have any bad areas to travel. I started praying for my co-workers. My route used to cover many of the awful hills, many of them would be driving on. Oh that my co-workers would be safe. Oh that all our passengers would be safe. Oh that those around us inside or outside of vehicles would be safe. The weather was getting worse and yet more worse.
My chains quit, again. I paced carefully. It was very slick. I had had many close calls-many cars had slid around me to avoid my stop sign. I eased around a right corner, my chains were working again. I was able to proceed, ever so cautiously. As I turned my next right, there was about 20 feet when my chains sounded. They quit at my next left. I had a kindy stop coming up. I wanted her to be safe. As I approached her stop, I had seen a car slide down the slight incline I was to traverse. My kindy was across the road, safely on her way.
I was at the base of the incline. I had no way to get up enough speed for momentum to help me up the hill. There was a car behind me that had slid to a stop and avoided tangling with my bumper. I accelerated enough to not slip and got half way up the hill. Then I started sliding backward. For whatever reason, the car behind me had stayed back. I tried to move forward, but to no avail. I needed to get the bus to stop. Suddenly, it gripped and I set the brake. I was pleased to have missed a mailbox.
After many moments, it was told to me to chain up. By that time, a couple of cars, had almost hit me: one slid down the hill while the other was proceeding up the hill.
I did not put triangles out, they would have slid down the hill. I was getting anxious. I had, at least 30 elementary passengers, and they were very hyper. One of my kindys has a voice that carries over anything. He kept yelling: “We’re going to die !!!”. The bus was secure. I put my keys in my vest pocket. Not on the carabiner clip on my work badge ???I assigned 2 helpers to help keep passengers in their seats. I figured the less movement the less chance of sliding downward, more. I proceeded to chaining.
As far as chaining goes, at the start of each school year us bus drivers have a chaining day. I love chaining day !!! I do a great job. BUT: the bus lot is level/ish. I usually do not need a coat. The ground is not slick. We also check our “Onspot” chains. This year mine were a little slow at stopping, but performed well after a couple tries.
As I was getting ready to put the chain over the wheel, a car came very close to sliding into me. 2 men came to help. BUT, I had gotten so flustered and my task kept being interrupted by cars sliding towards me, that I did everything wrong. Well, one thing I did right, I put chocks behind my front tires. My vest was too cold. I stepped into the bus to get my coat. The kindy was still repeating his phrase scarring his bus mates. I hung up my vest on the back of my seat.
I needed to refix my mess-up with the chains. The men were trying to help in whatever way possible. One car crashed into a bush and they were able to help that driver.
Funny thing. All my bending under the bus, my wonderful glasses never fell off, fogged up or got scratched !!!
One of the men and I were finishing tightening the chain on the road side. All of a sudden, a work mechanic, was approaching my bus-on foot. I noticed him when he slid towards me, there was no sure footing, on this area of ice. How did he know to help me ??? School helpers came and assisted with my passengers. Those precious ladies. Another lady offered to let all my passengers into her house to get warmed up. I had to explain that as a rule we are to not let passengers out of the bus until their designated stop. No one else can take a child unless we see I.D., they need to be on the designated list for picking up and we must be given permission from dispatch. Her kindness helped ease my tension.
The bus was chained, chocks moved to behind back wheels, in case sliding happened. The mechanic was sure the chains were tight enough, but he was going to move the bus forward enough to get me to a good place to continue my route. He needed the key. I couldn’t find the key~~~because I had not put it on my carabiner . I checked everywhere: pulled down my cover/rain pants. Checked my ski pants, shoes, coat pockets, under the bus. I checked everywhere I could thing of. A search was on. The mechanic had an idea. He was in the driver seat, I had sat in seat 2 to talk with the kindy who had everyone scarred. I stood up to talk to the mechanic. My hand landed on my vest. I knew where the bus key was located. Yep, my left vest pocket.
Were my blunders finished ??? Nope. The mechanic told me to let dispatch know I was back on the road. The radio was very quiet. I was near the CTC when I let dispatch know I would be late to MHS. I could not figure out why there was no one else having problems. I noticed the word busy on my radio. For some reason I turned the volume knob-I guess the mechanic had turned the volume down and I didn’t realize it. It wasn’t long until I could hear the many problems. I felt so awful for everyone. My gut wrinkled with each difficulty. My guilt because of my ineptness grew~~~I never want to make things difficult for dispatch !!! I am sure I did, that crazy Wednesday afternoon. There is a lot more to be told, maybe another time.
I will end on this note: I am thankful for all our wonderful dispatch and all who helped out during the messy storm !!! Our mechanics are the best !!! How blessed for the many other workers that helped stranded buses !!! I am SUPER grateful that our passengers made it home safely !!! There were many that had to help behind the scenes !!! AND to my fellow bus drivers, all of you are special to me in various ways !!! I am glad this storm did not defeat you !!! I pray for all to find a positive in this HUGE trial !!! Blessings to ALL my co-workers at NCSD#12 !!!
Have A Blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year !!!