This is a picture from NOAA with a somewhat better visibility than we had that night on the highway.
We have had our fair share of severe weather near misses. Some of those near misses have just been due to our own dumb luck. Most have been because we have been aware and alert and reacted quickly. This post is on fog. There is not much to say about fog except avoid it if you can. Some folks have special lights installed for fog. I can’t comment on those because I have never tried to use them. Given what we have heard, I think the usefulness of fog lights is mainly that of a placebo. If I am correct, fog lights are likely more of a hazard than a help. We have had one experience with fog.
We were approaching the Canadian border in North Dakota in early spring There had been some melting but there was still snow everywhere. We were tired and looking forward to getting home. We were traveling along at 55mph and when we abruptly and without warning hit a solid wall of fog. It was the eeriest sensation. One minute we were fine and the next I could barely see the front end of the truck. I had to think fast. First move was to take my foot off the gas and brake to slow down, I mean really slow down. Heart in throat, I peered hard praying no one was stopped in that road in front of us. The next thing to worry about was whoever was coming behind me. Fog kills most often when someone hits someone else from behind at high speed. I knew we had to get off the highway.
I tried pulling off to the shoulder but as luck would have it on this stretch of road there was essentially no shoulder. I pulled over as far as I could and then using the yellow line along the shoulder as a guide, we rolled forward going about 10 mph. I tried the brights but they reflected back off the dog at me creating worse visibility than low beams. Fortunately, after a short distance the yellow line turned off and I knew we were at an exit. We followed the yellow line off the highway. As we did, we heard the sickening crunch sound of vehicle impact in the distance. Fog muffles and distorts sound so we couldn’t tell exactly where it came from.
Once off the highway the fog thinned enough for us to be able to see about 100 yards or so in front of us. A police car passed with lights flashing by, driving slowly even so. I was relieved someone official was investigating the horrible crunching. We pulled into one of those cheery small towns you find all over in the midwest. Each of these little towns are almost all clones of the other with the same general plan for mainstreet, a stately brick court house and a row of storefronts, most of them unoccupied. We ended up behind a big semi truck and by the time we rolled all the way into town we had another one behind us. Another sheriff in the town, in a car whose blue lights somewhat cut through the fog, directed us to the town square. We joined a short line of semis to wait it out.
It turned into a rather pleasant experience. We decided to go into the only small bar in town. They were happily extending the grill hours to get an unexpectedly full house fed as vehicle after vehicle rolled in off the highway. We were introduced to the local sheriff when he took a break from escorting semis in to grab a quick coffee. He said there were thirty six semis, four cars and three RVs of assorted types. The mayor came out to the bar in order to make sure everyone was all right and no one lacked sleeping accommodations. His town had no hotel but he had some volunteers in town who could billet folks. We explained about our travel trailer. No, there was no campground, but we were free to pull into the park and hook up to the power supply for the main square’s Christmas decorations across from where we were parked. The decorations were long ago put away but he had flipped the breaker to the power supply when he saw our trailer. We left a generous tip for the waitress. The fog continued to thicken over the town until even walking out of the bar to cross the street back to the trailer was potentially hazardous. My husband walked in front of me guiding my into the small mainstreet park to get power. We parked next to a classic American town square bandstand.
We were awakened at dawn by the sound of semis gearing up to leave. We came out to find a long line of vehicles that stretched as far as we could see down main street and around the bend back to the exit. We had a fifth wheel and a motor coach beside us in the town park. There was two extension cords along with ours hooked up for power. By the time we had breakfast and were ready to go, the local credit union was open. We stopped in and left the rest of our American cash in a donation jar collecting money to refurbish the local school’s playground. We rolled on to the border feeling that we had just experienced the very best Americans can offer.
On the way to the border we heard a news story about a six car, two semi pileup that had happened on the same stretch of highway going south. Two people had died. It was a sobering reminder that fog kills. We had gotten lucky again.