Wanting To Testify, We Left A Tropical Paradise For a Blizzard And 3 Feet of Snow

This was untouched - done completely by wind - as the snow around it was clean with no tracks. Photo Credit: Evan Luzi

This photo was taken by my son, Evan Luzi, near his apartment. It is untouched – the work of the wind – as the snow around it was clean with no tracks.

Patti and I were in the Virgin Islands taking a rare and long anticipated five day vacation when we heard that a blizzard would be hitting the Washington D.C. area, starting at 4 p.m. on Friday (1-22-16). Patti suggested we catch an earlier flight home on Thursday.

“No way!” I said stubbornly. “I’m not giving up two days of vacation. Besides, weather forecasters are always exaggerating. It makes for better ratings.”

A call to American Airlines set off alarm bells on Friday morning. If we didn’t leave the island immediately, we would be stuck in St. Thomas until late Tuesday night. Stuck?

Ordinarily, the threat of being forced to stay in a tropical paradise while the entire upper East Coast was under three feet of snow would be a no-brainer. Bring me another Pina Colada while I watch a perfect Caribbean sunset, please.

But I was scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday (1-26-15) about the importance of Crisis Intervention Team training and jail diversion. I didn’t want to miss that hearing.

Patti and I scrambled to the airport and took off for Miami, the first link of our trip home.

And that is as far as we got on American Airlines, which promptly cancelled the next leg of our flight. We were stranded in Miami on Friday during a downpour of rain. A kind but frazzled flight agent told us that we had been re-booked on a flight that would leave late Tuesday night for Dulles Airport.

“But I have to get back to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday morning,” I said, hoping that statement would make it sound as if the safety of the entire free world depended on me giving testimony.  (I would later learn that Vice President Joe Biden’s flight had been redirected to Miami and that he couldn’t get home to Washington either.)

My plea didn’t work. Worse, American Airlines refused to give us our bags.

Suddenly, the idea of spending four days in Miami without our luggage in the rain seemed pretty dismal.

“We have to get to Washington so I can testify on Tuesday,” I told Patti. “Let’s drive.”

“From Miami?”


Within an hour, I had rented the only four wheel drive Cherokee that Hertz had to offer at the Miami airport. By this time (late Friday afternoon), we were hearing that huge amounts of snow were falling in the Washington D.C. area so I nixed any plans on stopping to see my brother in Florida or friends along the route. Instead, Patti and I buckled in for a long drive. (Our only stop would be in Raleigh to spend the night and check on Patti’s 87 year-old mother.)

Incredibly, the closer we got to Washington, the better the roads were. The Interstate highways (85 and 95) were completely clear of snow Sunday morning and there was no traffic. Bravo to the road crews. I would definitely be able to testify.

But when we exited I-95, we found the roads icy and snow covered. Our neighborhood streets had not been plowed. Three feet of snow blocked us from getting within a half mile of our house – even in a 4 x 4.

We parked the rented Jeep at our daughter’s house. (Unlike our neighborhood, her’s had been plowed.) And I hiked through the mounds to our house with our daughter’s snow shovel in hand so I could dig out our front door.

By midnight Sunday, we were home and I would be able to testify.

It was at about that same moment that I received an email from the Senate. Yup, you guessed it, the Tuesday hearing on mental health and the criminal justice system was being indefinitely postponed. I would not be testifying.

I need to listen to my wife next time. But for right now, I think I’ll have a Pina Colada snow cone.






About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.