By RENE J. ROY
SOUTHWEST COAST – “I left work at midnight, like I always do,” begins Cathy McIsaac, as she begins recounting her harrowing experience on Mar. 2. Later that Tuesday night, as events unfolded, Cathy would more or less live blog her ordeal via Facebook.
The weather that night was fairly bad admits Cathy, but, “I was following the side of the road, the shoulder of the road.”
That particular snowstorm, one of three that battered the Southwest Coast region within a short span of only a few days, brought whiteout conditions, blowing snow, and a Wreckhouse wind warning in excess of 100 km/h. Most folks were hunkered in for the night, just hoping they wouldn’t lose power, but McIsaac had just finished her shift at Marine Atlantic, and wanted to get back to her home in Doyles.
She climbed into her SUV, a Honda CRV, and hit the road. Unfortunately for Cathy, she didn’t get very far.
“Up there, across from the first dump, the old one, the road was plowed pretty widely there, so I went too close to the shoulder, and I went down in the ditch.”
Luckily she wasn’t hurt and neither was her SUV, but both were hopelessly stuck in the middle of a raging blizzard. At first Cathy tried to get the car out but quickly realized it was a lost cause, so she called a friend at work to ask them to call a tow truck. She posted her first message of the night on her timeline at 12:59 a.m.
“Somebody please call tow truck. I am up by new dump. Stuck.”
As she waited to see if her tow was coming, Cathy kept her car running, wisely deciding not to try to walk along the highway and becoming disoriented or struck by another vehicle.
Advice from her Facebook contacts poured in, offering tips, safety instructions, and an abundance of worry.
“They called everyone. The police, the tow truck, the fire department, but they couldn’t get up. The visibility was the worst I’ve ever seen,” recalls Cathy. “The police tried to get to me, but they couldn’t get there.”
She provided worried friends with another status update at 2:38 a.m.
“I am here for the night. Cruiser went off road trying to get to me.”
The RCMP did indeed try to reach her but after driving their own SUV off the road, constables had no choice but to call off their efforts to reach McIsaac to protect their own safety. Because of the extremely poor conditions, tow truck operators were unwilling to make any attempt.
McIsaac says she had no emergency kit or equipment in her vehicle, but was lucky to still be in her work coveralls, which kept her toasty warm. She did have a beverage with her as well.
She kept her window opened slightly to keep fresh air circulating, and kept pushing her door open to prevent a buildup of snow.
“I’m very claustrophobic, so if the snow had built up and covered me, then that’s when I would have gone into panic mode.”
To pass the time, once she knew she was in for the long haul, Cathy talked to friends on her cell phone most of the night. Fortunately she had her cell phone charger with her, so she wasn’t left feeling completely isolated. At 7:08 a.m., Cathy got her SUV out of the ditch.
“Barry Furlong came along, in his pickup, and he towed me on.”
Looking back on the night’s events, Cathy admits, “I should have stayed where I was at. I don’t listen very well. I’m a very stubborn person. Couple of coworkers told me to stay, and I didn’t listen.”
She offers up a piece of advice.
“I chose to go, because I got there every other time. But you’re better off staying where your to. And make sure you have warm clothes, something to drink, and a cell charger.”
She is grateful for all the concern expressed by those who saw her Facebook post, saying that she can’t name everyone who helped her that night, or she’d never remember them all.