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Buried In Snow
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Living With Michigan Winters

By James Donahue

One of the winter snow pictures selected for a daily weather picture on this website reminded me of a personal incident experienced during my high school days in Michigan’s Thumb. It depicts a school bus buried in a snow bank.

While much of the nation is now dealing with radical weather patterns, including intense winter storms, we who lived along the shores of the Great Lakes were always familiar with lake effect snow storms. We knew how to deal with them most of the time.

When this particular storm hit, I had driven the farm jeep to school. When we got the news that the blowing snow was starting to block the country roads, schools closed early and the school buses lined up to run the rural children home. I picked up my younger brother and sister and we also made a run for our home, which was on a farm seven miles away on what was then a dirt road.

We thought our jeep, with its four all-weather tires and a four-wheel-drive axel would surely get us home. We had a cab mounted on what was an open military-type vehicle although the vehicle lacked a heater. I remember that the windshield wipers had to be operated manually. Because we had the jeep we were well bundled up for the winter weather. Also I always carried a snow shovel so I knew if we got stuck, I could dig us out.

The jeep was an amazing vehicle. It power pushed its way through heavy snow and those wheels gripped icy roads with amazing traction, so we felt safely secure in our trip home that afternoon. I actually looked forward to smashing my way through the fingers of big snow banks on the edge of the road as we went our way.

What we did not expect was a bank of snow that completely filled a small gully that the road passed through at the edge of a hill some three miles from our destination. Because we were traveling in white-out conditions, I didn’t see the obstacle until I was right in it. I hit that snow fast and hard, expecting the jeep to push us through to the other side. Instead, we came to a quick halt, with the snow piled high over the windshield. The jeep was buried. I pushed myself out of the side door and started shoveling.

It seemed a losing battle. The blowing snow was filling in the shoveled space almost as fast as I made it. I began to think that I and my siblings were in serious trouble. There was a farm house about a half mile down the road and I knew our last resort would be to seek shelter there. But I worried about a snow plow slamming into the jeep, which was concealed in snow at the center of that country road.

As I looked around, I realized that another vehicle was also stuck in the same snow bank. It was a school bus full of children. I made my way over to it and learned that the bus was equipped with a radio. The driver had called for help and the local Road Commission was sending a plow to rescue the bus.

My brother and sister and I waited in the heated bus for the snow plow. Within the hour we were being dug out. The plow continued down our road so once the jeep was free we had a clear route home. All I had to do then was shovel out our driveway to get the jeep off the road.

When I looked at the picture of the school bus in the snow, I remembered the incident. If I had a camera with me that day, I might have captured a picture that looked almost like it.