I was returning from the Olsen Christmas get together in Avoca, driving through dense fog on I-90 just a few miles south of Madison. Suddenly, a fully stopped semitrailer materialized out of the fog less than 20 yards in front of me. There was no time to think about what to do really, it was all just reactionary in that split-second (relying on what grandpa referred to as my "quick ping-pong reflexes").
I slammed on the brakes and looked to swerve around the semi, knowing I'd never be able to fully stop in time to keep from crashing into the back it. In the same instant, the car to the left of me skidded and smashed into another stopped vehicle, taking the two of them off to the left side of the road. This opened up just enough of a gap to the left of the semi for me to swerve into while the anti-lock brakes were chugging hard to cope with the wet pavement.
The adrenaline surged at this moment and my arms began to shake as the weight of the past couple of seconds hit me. I managed the car down to a roll and continued to maneuver around and past the crushed cars on the debris littered roadway while the screeching of tires behind me continued -- some ending with the harsh sounds of crumpling metal and shattering glass.
The full carnage of the wreck unveiled itself as I moved past it and parked safely off to the side of the road well ahead. I ran back to see if there was any way to help before the emergency vehicles arrived. I was standing amongst the demolished vehicles and talking with a man involved in the pile-up when the sickening sounds came from just beyond the fog curtain of more crashes on the the opposite side of the interstate.
The first of the emergency crews arrived shortly after and began surveying for those in the worst condition. The remainder of the involved motorists were left wandering about the interstate, a scene that would be so odd on any other day. A reporter and cameraman from Madison's channel 27 news (abc) came through and asked to interview me -- a few soundbites from this ended up on the evening news.
I was one the very few that was able to get back on the road after an hour and a half. I drove the very foggy next 10 miles slowly while keeping an eye out for emergency vehicles that were both coming and going on the southbound side. In that stretch of road I saw at least another 5 wrecks on the northbound side of the interstate where cars were piled up or smashed and off in the ditch.
I heard this morning that the interstate wasn't fully open again until around 1am this morning... quite the clean-up.
While it seems like I end up in quite a few unlucky situations, I've got to say that I'm pretty happy with where my luck landed me on this one given the possibilities-
Jan 7, 2008