Panic! I just saw a snowflake!

Every month I travel from the Jennings Boston office to our headquarters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to meet with the team and take care of some administrative tasks that require my presence. The trip is usually just an overnight stay with two days in the Chapel Hill office, but this month I received an unexpected surprise. I was a hostage to mother nature – a wintery mess – in a region that is not accustomed to snow and ice. In fact, when I started working at Jennings this past July, I was elated that I could escape the nasty winter weather of New England and enjoy the mild climate of the South every month – at least for a few days.

Just my luck… It just so happened that winter storm Jonas walloped the entire mid-Atlantic region paralyzing the entire state of North Carolina and neighboring states. As a lifelong resident of Boston and its suburbs, I’m accustomed to snow and ice and driving in it, but down in North Carolina, this is a rarity. The state is not used to dealing with snow and ice and panic ensues. In fact, a good friend from New England posted this meme on Facebook the morning the storm hit (which I found hilarious) to poke fun at how southerners react to unexpected wintery weather.

Courtesy of Nick Zaharias

Courtesy of Nick Zaharias


Early Friday morning the storm hit, and it was sheer ice on the roads.  The local TV news stations were obsessed with all the accidents and spinouts and encouraged everyone to stay off the roads for the next two days. A snow emergency was issued.

Winter Storm Jonas. Courtesy of NOAA

Winter Storm Jonas. Courtesy of NOAA


At 8:00am Jennings Principal, and good friend, Dan Dunlop – originally from New England I might add – texted me that he was in his Jeep and on his way to pick me up at my hotel to head into the office. His wife, Scotti, called him crazy, but we were determined and we made it to the Jennings office.  It was a great day actually, and since the Jennings office was so quiet (everyone else was working from home) we both accomplished a lot – even while we watched the constant media hype on TV. It was like we were watching the apocalypse. Being from New England, I had to laugh.

Dan and I working in the Jennings reception area while watching the TV news coverage

Dan and I working in the Jennings reception area while watching the TV news coverage


JetBlue and Southwest Airlines went into panic mode and cancelled all flights for the next two days. My one-night stay now turned into a possible three-night stay. JetBlue offered me a seat on a 5:05pm flight on Sunday, which I jumped at because the representative on the phone said it was the last available seat. But I panicked because the New England Patriots were playing the Denver Broncos in the AFC Conference final at 3:00pm that Sunday and I had a party planned at my place with about 15 friends coming. I had to make it back to Boston before Sunday.

Thanks to Delta, they had a flight out on Saturday at 3:20pm.  On Saturday morning, I was up early and ready to face the stress that comes with traveling and not knowing if I would make it to Boston.  My day began by warming up the rental car in an attempt to melt some of the inch-thick ice that blanketed it. I don’t think they even sell ice scrapers in the south, so I summoned my inner-MacGyver and scraped the windows with my hotel key-card. About an hour later, I was ready to head to the airport.

After enduring about 30 minutes of white-knuckle driving and passing at least 10-15 cars abandoned on the side of the road, I finally made it to Enterprise’s car return facility, caught the shuttle bus, and made my way into the Raleigh-Durham airport.

It was eerily quiet.  Then again, Delta was pretty much the only airline operating, so the lack of fellow travelers was to be expected.  I shot through TSA in one-minute flat.  Record time!  Then came the inevitable waiting game.

My 3:20pm flight changed to 4:30. Then to 5:30, and again to 6:30. Around 7:30 an announcement was made that we would begin boarding. Hallelujah! After getting settled into my assigned seat it looked like everyone was on board and I was ready for the announcement that they were closing the doors. Five minutes went by and instead of announcing that they were closing the doors, they informed us that we were delayed again and all passengers had to disembark the plane. Making it home in time for Sunday’s Patriots party didn’t look good.

The fact that they kept delaying my flight was, in my eyes, a good thing. It meant there was still a possibility. If it wasn’t possible, they would have just cancelled it.

Ultimately, the plane boarded again around 10pm. When we pulled onto the runway and the pilot hit the gas, I knew it was a done deal and I’d make it home that night.

It was a stressful 11 hours at the airport, but I’m just thankful I was one of the fortunate ones to get home. As I look back at the whole situation, it was quite an adventure. I guess that’s what made me stay so positive – thinking of it as an adventure. But when it comes to missing a Patriots party that I’m hosting – adventure aside… Just get me home.

Anyone else have any crazy travel stories?

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