Last Friday was a complete nightmare for many of us with the unexpected snow that blanketed the area. School buses loaded with high school athletes headed off for basketball games around 3 p.m. with the grass still very much visible and a very worry-free prediction of a light dusting less than one inch of snow.
However, by tip off at 6 p.m. whiteout conditions were causing havoc on the freeways and side streets, closing part of I-75 in Bay County because of a 40-car accident.
Unbeknownst to the various girls’ basketball teams, coaches and referees tucked inside warm gymnasiums, Old Man Winter had come knocking with a vengeance, kicking and screaming at the door.
As I shared space with an ABC12 cameraman at the Lapeer West gym, a Genesee Area County ref from Swartz Creek asked us what it a was like outside, seeing our heads full of snow and damp-shouldered coats. The cameraman said it all when he replied, “it’s not pretty’. The surprised ref, replied, “oh, really, I came from Swartz Creek…” We both shook our heads and I relayed to him that one of our reporters had said it was a near whiteout between there and Flushing because of all the blowing snow.
It dawned on me at that point, that had the schools known what was in store, they surely would have called off a great number of the games. Imlay City was at Yale, Fenton was at Lapeer West, Lapeer East was at Linden, and many of our hockey teams were in Chelsea taking part in the Public High Schools Showcase. Added to that, every high school wrestling team that hadn’t beaten the weather were going to be in for rude awakening come daybreak, as they headed out in the wee hours of the morning for the Individual Wrestling District tournaments on Saturday.
The unsung heroes of the night had to be all the school bus drivers, left in the cold, dark parking lots to watch the increasingly worsening weather, no doubt fretting about how they’d get those kids back to their schools safely. Many likely set their books and radio aside and recalled from their recent bus rodeos, just how to deal with the slippery slopes that lay ahead of them. They were kept occupied planning out alternate routes as they listened to the countless traffic accident reports coming across the airwaves.
Earlier in the night before I had headed over to Lapeer West, yet another reporter called to report a blown tire on I-69 near Davison. Beautiful. What a nasty night to have to deal with that ordeal.
By 9:30 p.m. when our by-then very skeleton crew headed back to the office, a 10-minute drive had turned into a 25-minute drive and trek from Goodrich to Lapeer took over an hour.
My thoughts, as I waited for basketball scores to be called in, went back to the bus drivers. By now, they were experiencing conditions they hadn’t seen since early January. Mayville’s boys’ basketball team was at Sandusky. Not only did they not get back to the school until well after midnight, they also missed the copy deadline, putting the kids’ safety first as they should have.
Ours is sometimes not an easy job, nor for the refs, coaches, administrators and fans, caught unaware if they were part of the girls’ games and likely late, if they were attending boys’ games. The steady trickle of fans well after the second tip-off told that tale all too well.
There’s no hazard pay for any of us, nor the dedicated refs, coaches and school administrators, just lots of worry and relief once everyone’s back home safe and sound.
We salute all of you for your heroics and efforts in keeping the kids and coaches safe in the dark of night; especially last Friday.