This week I found myself suddenly trapped in Friesland as snow and ice descended upon the province, transforming it in to Freezeland.
Our first warning of the approaching winter weather had actually happened on the Sunday, a full day before there was any sight of even a single snow flake or the slightest drop in temperature. Lights had started to mysteriously flicker around the house which I would normally take as an indication of an impending paranormal event (a haunting or the development of my three year old daughter’s telekinetic powers perhaps). However, we later found out the storm approaching from the North East was causing over head power cables in that area to ice over and ‘dance’ (it’s a real technical term) in the wind, thus disrupting the power grid and our lights.
On the Monday the snow came and by Tuesday the deep freeze had set in.
My attempt to drive to the train station that morning was a very slow and interesting one. The freezing night time temperatures had covered the roads in a thick layer of smooth ice. As a side effect my drive was starting to feel like I was taking part in a badly organised and ill conceived car based version of the Elfstedentocht. Even while crawling along at 10 kilometres an hour (which was all that was possible) my car was sliding more than it was driving. Even the slightest steering correction or application of the break was causing the car to disagree about which direction we should be going. However, if I was extremely careful and very slow the drive didn’t seem completely impossible. In the winter darkness of 7am I could not see the faces of the oncoming drivers but I imagined they had a look of mild terror as they slid passed in the opposite direction with a similar illusion of control.
I was convinced that everything would be fine as soon as I reached the main road but I was wrong. After twenty minutes of car skating I had reached the same distance that, under normal conditions, would take me less than five. The radio started to announce the issuing of a code red weather warning and advised drivers to stay home and give up all thoughts of motorized transport for the day (unless absolutely and positively necessary).
Shortly after discovering that the conditions on the main road were not much better than the roads I had come from I decided to follow the radios advice. I turned the car around (extremely slowly to avoid any unfortunate accidents with the nearby road side stream*) and started the slow return journey home.
For the two days that followed I was forced to stay home. The ice would melt a bit during the day but re-freeze at night. This caused the weather warning to bounce back and forth between code red and code orange like a defective disco light until the ice was finally gone on Friday.
However, it was a bit of a shame to see the ice go. Even though it had caused a lot of problems the Friesians had made the best of it. All over the province adults and children (the schools had been closed) had started ice skating in the streets. It’s little a surprise that the Dutch win so many ice skating medals. In Groningen students started curling with beer crates and youtube got a few additional Friesian inspired ice fail videos.
Who knows if there will be more ice in the next few weeks or if we have to wait another year for it to strike again. All I know is next year I might try ice skating to work instead of driving.
((*Whose bright idea was it to dig so many car sized watery ditches next to roads in The Netherlands?))
((**Credit to my friend VallyP for the Freezeland joke. I sort of stole it.))