My sister and her family were here for a visit from Utah and we had spent a fun filled day at the beach. It had been a bit chilly and windy, but a nice day none-the-less and I was sad when it came time for me to return home with my children. I had a piano recital that evening and I wanted to be sure to leave enough time to bathe the kids and get myself ready for the recital. I was especially excited as we had planned to have the recital at a local nursing home.
I figured that by leaving at 3:30 I would have plenty of time before I had to be at the nursing home at 6:30 – the recital was scheduled to begin at 7:00. The drive is only an hour and a half – two hours max.
The kids and I were listening to rousing music and singing at the top of our lungs, the wind whipping around us through the open windows. The van was still out of commission from out Montana drive, so I was driving Moby Dick (a white 86 Mercury Grand Marquis). The only problem with Moby Dick was that the back passenger window was stuck half way down and wouldn’t roll up. The weather had been good, and I hadn’t been concerned, though I had a black plastic bag to fit over the door in case of emergency.
All went well until we were less than on hour from home and I noticed the sky was a strange greenish-gray/brown color. I grew up knowing what the sky looked like in tornado weather and this was it. I could almost picture a funnel forming and coming down. I shook my head. “Must be my imagination,” I told myself. A light rain began to fall, though it wasn’t coming in the window at all.
We drove another 15 to 20 mintures and then out of nowhere the rain came down in torrents. The wind was whipping around so hard that it was raining sideways, pelting poor Emily and drenching her in seconds. I pulled off the main road at the first exit I came to and turned into a parking lot. I sloshed through the water quickly accumulating on the ground and yanked her door open. It took me less than a minute to throw the black bag over the window and hurry back into the car, but I was drenched to the skin – I felt like I had just plunged into a swimming pool with my clothes on. The water was already past my ankles.
I cranked on the heat and threw the windshield wipers on full blast. I could hardly see for all the rain and wind. I turned on the radio and listened in amazement as they gave tornado warnings for the area I had just driven through, claiming one had touched down briefly somewhere in the distant area – “I guess it wasn’t my imagination,” I said. After getting all the pertinent information I turned of the radio – not wanting to scare the kids any further.
After another 10 minutes of driving I came up to the main junction to get onto the highway that led into my hometown. The traffic was at a dead standstill. Cars were lined up for as far as I could see. I sat a while and finally turned the car off, turning it on to inch forward occasionally. The third time I turned on the car I looked down at the gas gauge – it was on empty! There was no way I would make it home in traffic this bad with so little gas.
I knew if I could get around the cement median, I could head to a small town a few miles away where I could fill up. We began to pray that traffic would move enough that I would be able to get around the median and that we would make to a gas station where we could get gas.
Gradually the traffic inched forward until I could just squeeze past the car in front of me and flip a u-turn. We all sighed in relief as we head toward the small town. The kids cheered as the gas station was spotted. I saw the clock read 5:30 – if I was lucky I would still be able to get home in time for the piano recital. As I pulled in, one of the gass attendents began waving his arms, and I rolled down the window.
“We’re out of power.”
“What?” I could hardly believe my ears.
“The entire town is out of power.”
I sat there in shock. My tank was below empty and I had to be at the nursing home in an hour.
“I wonder if I can make it into my hometown anyway.” I didn’t realize I had spoken aloud until a nice man on his motorcycle aproached.
“I doubt it,” he said. “Every road into your hometown is closed because of downed trees. I was just trying to get there myself.”
“I have a piano recital I have to get to,” I moaned to no one in particular.
“I don’t think you will make it ma’am.”
He smiled wryly and joined with me in laughing as I proclaimed, “But I’m the teacher!”
He was very kind, and let me borrow his cell phone to call home and leave Paul a message as to where I was.
At that point I decided I had two options. I could sit and wait, or I could exercise my faith. We had prayed we would make it to a gas station where I could fill up with gas. This obviously wasn’t it. There was another town about 10-15 minutes further away from my hometown and I was informed the roads headed into that town were clear. I sucked in my breath, strengthened my faith and started the car. We had prayed. The car would make it.
We made the drive and the kids once again cheered as we spotted the gas station on the edge of town. I pulled in, and noticed it was as empty as a ghost town – I half expected to see tumble weeds rolling past the pumps. I never minded that fact that you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon until that moment. The silly people had closed because of the storm. Not because they lost power or any other disaster, but because of the storm. After a lot of grumbling, I reminded myself, “You prayed you’d make it to a gas station where you can fill up. This isn’t it.”
So, I started the car again and cruised on through town. A few minutes later I found yet another gas station and the kids really did cheer as this one had power AND was open! Finally my car had gas. I looked at the clock. It was 6:10. There was no way I would get back in time, but I figured it wouldn’t do any good to just sit around waiting, so I methodically began trying roads into my home town. The first road toward town I tried was closed about 10-15 miles out, so I turned around, headed to the main road and drive a while before trying another back road.
This road had just barely been cleared. I waved at the road worker as I passed and was assured the roads the rest of the way into my hometown were clear. By now it was 6:30 and I was contemplating how I could make it to the recital if I just went in jeans with wet soggy hair. Two miles out of town we were rerouted due to an accident. We finally pulled into the driveway at 6:50. My lovely husband had gotten my message and had called the nursing home to notify them that I was stranded and had cancelled the recital – he also figured none of us had been able to eat, so he had picked up some Little Ceaser pizzas for us too.
The usual 90 minute drive took me over three hours. My sister, who was going to stay at the beach arrived home shortly after I did, because the weather had turned so bad.
It was a strange feeling – not being able to get to my home and I am so grateful our prayers were answered. I drove close to 20 miles on an empty tank – the needle was below empty actually – and that to me is a miracle and answer to prayer. I could have been stranded in a storm by myself with five kids, no gas, and no phone. I know Heavenly Father loves us, watches over us, and answers our prayers.