Brad's Blog: How I escaped a very "hyper" snowstorm - - The News for South Mississippi

Brad's Blog: How I escaped a very "hyper" snowstorm

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ATLANTA, GA (WLOX) - If you don't like to fly, then don't – I repeat, don't – board a plane that's taking off in blizzard-like conditions.  It can turn you as white as the snow outside your airplane.

The best way to describe my flight from Chicago to Atlanta on Tuesday would be with two words – oy vey.

If you read my earlier, you know I was in Chicago for the weekend.  And my trip home was Tuesday, the same day a blizzard was making a beeline toward the Windy City.  I had a 12:36 flight that initially got moved to 12:56.  The plane arrived on time.  And for much of the time it sat on the tarmac, it was easy to see because the snow wasn't falling.

Our problem was that the pilot and co-pilot were stuck in Minneapolis.  They didn't get to Chicago until 1:20.

We boarded flight number 2877 at 2:00.  And that's when things got a bit fuzzy.  The leading edge of the blizzard became very noticeable.  Snow began falling.  The wind whipped up.  The runways became harder and harder to spot. 

De-icing equipment sprayed our aircraft's wings, so the pilot could fly the plane.  We backed away from our gate and slowly inched our way toward the runway.  Occasionally, the captain would rev the engines.  We guessed he was heating the engines, and melting any snow that had accumulated.

We sat near the runway for what seemed like an eternity.  The co-pilot came out of the cockpit.  We were told he had to check the wings to see if any snow or ice had stuck to them.  Seconds later, an announcement came over the speaker system.  The de-icing chemical has a 25 minute time limit.  We were past the 25 minute mark.  We had to go back to the terminal and de-ice again. 

Frustrated passengers grumbled.  I cheered.  I was glad to know we had a pilot who put safety first.  People whipped out their cell phones.  They started texting.  They started making phone calls.  One guy even used his speaker to talk with somebody on the other end.  How rude.

Back at the terminal, two de-icers coated our wings with another layer of chemicals.  And off we went, this time to a different runway.  The clock was ticking.  And everybody on board knew it.  We had 25 minutes to get off the ground.

We zig zagged our way toward our departure ramp.  And then we came to a sudden halt.  Out the window, we saw nothing.  O'Hare International Airport appeared to be blanked by blowing and drifting snow, creating a whiteout not seen in these parts in more than a decade.  Engines revved.  But we didn't move.  The co-pilot made a second trip into the middle of the plane, to scope out the wings for more snow and ice.  People in the back complained.  Those of us up front got a chance to ask how things looked.  A thumbs up made people smile. 

The pilot announced for flight attendants to get ready for takeoff.  A woman in first class raised her arms in triumph.

The cheers turned to boos when the first officer made his third trip down the cabin's walkway to analyze the wings.  Most of us were aware that the 25 minute de-icing limit was about to expire.  But why be mad I wondered.  We were already late.  Isn't safely getting to Atlanta the most important item on the captain's agenda?  I kept thinking if the wings won't work, turn around and go back to gate E-13.  Don't take off.

I guess the wings checked out okay.  About a minute later we jetted down the runway.  As the plane soared upward, applause filled the cabin. 

As I'm typing this, the DC-9 is bouncing around.  There is definitely turbulence up here.  But there's really not as much as you might expect.  Our path to Atlanta took us over Indiana and Kentucky.  Both states were being pelted by rain, sleet, wind and snow.  For a brief moment we saw the sun.  We were at 32,000 feet.  But, another deck of clouds swallowed us up, and we were once again reminded that just below this aircraft was a low pressure system making life miserable for people in 29 states.

Usually, when your departure is late, you sit on the plane and nervously wonder if you'll make your connection.  I don't have those concerns.  I already know I'm going to miss my connection to Gulfport.  That's okay, I have a seat reserved on a 10:00 p.m. flight.  And I've been upgraded to first class.

So, once we get to Hartsfield International Airport, I'll turn on my phone, make a couple of calls, and then go get a bite to eat.  Other than the bagel I snagged from my sister, and this Biscoff cookie Delta just served me, I haven't eaten a thing.  And I'm starved.  I hate airport food.  It's too expensive.  But today, I'll bite the bullet and pay whatever it costs to fill me up.

At some point, I'll wander over to my Gulfport gate, and patiently wait for the final leg of this journey to end.  Of course, at last check Gulfport was under a tornado watch.  And that system was moving toward Georgia.  I made it through a blizzard, but do I really want to fly through a twister?

Postscript:  It's now Wednesday morning.  Our Delta flight to Gulfport arrived at 11:02 p.m.  Before we left Atlanta, I heard from my nine-and-a-half year old niece Lauren.  She lives in suburban Chicago.  When I asked her if the snow was scary, Lauren sent me an email that said, "Yea, really scary.  Very hyper and wild."  Then I called Mom.  She said it was so eerily reminiscent of the 1967 snowstorm that dumped 23" on Chicago.  The only difference – her apartment was intact (in the '67 storm, our apartment building burned down).  Thankfully the family had no fires to put out during the Blizzard of 2011. 

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