I remember that day clearly. The century, killer storm of March, 1993. The storm was later found to be predicted as much as 2 weeks in advance, the legacy of new weather prediction computers. Nobody believed the computers, then, and the storm came as a surprise, a practically unprecedented meeting of three conflicting pressure zones. The meeting caused an explosion of unheard of weather, dumping 3 feet of snow practically overnight, from a storm that seemed to come out of nowhere.
It inundated the country with weather conditions bordering on the crazy- the entire east coast was blanketed with precipitation, with severe snow as far south as northern Florida. It killed over 300 people, paralyzed the entire transportation infrastructure of the BosWash megalopolis, the huge group of cities stretching from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington D.C., and encompassing the metropolises of Boston, Springfield, Providence, Hartford, Albany, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. 40 million people, paralyzed by a freak snow storm.
It was, as National Geographic, and others, would later call it, the storm of the century. It was scary, terrifying, and completely unexpected. School trips that were taking place in parks were trapped. Dressed for more reasonable March weather, they were caught totally unprepared for the frigid temperatures and snow.
It was also known as the Great Blizzard of '93. It was a massive cyclonic monster of a storm, terrorizing the east coast from March 12th to 15th. Its intensity, massive size and wide-reaching effect were unprecedented, and even more so, its short notice. At the peak the storm stretched from Canada to Central America.
Areas as far south as central Alabama and Georgia received 8 inches of snow and some areas of Alabama received up to 12 inches 16 inches. Even the Florida Panhandle reported up to 4 inches, with hurricane-force wind gusts and record low numbers on the barometer. Between Florida and Cuba, hurricane-force winds produced extreme storm surges in the Gulf, while twisters killed dozens of people.
That it was perhaps the worst storm of the 20th Century is not why I remember it. No, it was the life-changing events of that first day, life changing more for me than for others. It was a day in my life where several important facets of my future were decided, and I will forever remember it.
Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. I am the parents of a second generation German father and an immigrant Cossack Russian mother. My name is Aleksei Ritterschreiber. I think most of my mental genes came from my genius father. His father changed his last name name to Knight and invented a form of motorcar engine, a complicated sleeve-valve. My physical and emotional genes are definitely my mothers, though ... I'm fiercely independent, have a massive temper, and I'm huge.
I'm built like a brick wall. I stand 6'9" high and weigh nearly 370 lbs ... none of which is fat. I was a successful football player and basketball player during high-school, but I never took it further than that. It bored me too much. Despite my size and enormous strength, I prefer to work with my mind, and my Cossack temperament makes me an awful team player. I look like the mountain man I often am, with a long black beard, and long, roguish black hair. My very Russian Jewish nose is the only large bare patch below my eyes.
Back in the late 1980s, fresh out of Harvard with an MBA, I walked into a well known company that was doing poorly, and made them an offer. I told them that if they were to take me on and give me a free run of the place, I would find things I felt were poorly done, come up with a better way to do it, and all they'd ever have to pay me was 25% of the projected savings on the fifth year of implementation. That is, the 1/4 the amount my method would save over the current system over one year, that year being the fifth year my modification was in operation.
In two years, I had come up with about 20 such modifications. The cumulative projected savings of my changes on the fifth year of their implementations came to about $500 million. I happily pocketed an underestimated $100 million before taxes, and told them that they would no longer benefit from my services. I hate being cheated. Also, I couldn't imagine needing more money.
After the first year, I went out and bought myself a new car, a brand new 1987 Mercedes-Benz 300TD Turbo station wagon. It was a solid car, and I figured it would last a life time. I don't like buying things, especially not cars. Car salesmen sicken me.
I began to plan a new way of life, and began working with architects, gardeners, and other people to make my desire for a life of solitude a reality.
On that night of the storm, I had decided earlier in the day that I should drive down from my small mountain cottage in the northwestern extent of the Adirondack (which was small mountain cottage in the sense of the homes of Newport, Rhode Island being summer cottages) to my parents house on the Jersey Shore. I set out about mid day, and around 3 o'clock it started to snow, heavily.
People tell me that RWD Mercedes cars are terrible in the snow. I don't know who convinced them of that, but whoever did was an idiot. They are not SUVs, and they do tend to skid. They aren't limpets. However, their complicated independent suspensions mean that they are excellent handlers. If you know the concepts of basic skid control, counter-steer, and proper acceleration in slippery conditions, you can drive along just fine.
I was driving along just fine on a secondary road in Sussex county when I happened upon a car in a ditch with its blinkers on. Being a kind hearted soul, not to mention naturally nosey, I pulled over and got out of my car to see if I could help. It was cold out, and I could see my breath very clearly. I, however, was warm in my thick pants, long underwear, Brooks Brothers cashmere sweater, rabbit-fur parka, and fur hat.
I was not astonished to find out that the car in the ditch was an Audi, a new 200 Turbo Quattro wagon, to be precise. A friend of mine told me that tow-truckers call snow days "Audi Duty". He told me that people in Audi Quattros are the most likely to go off road. SUV drivers back then recognized the natural handling limitations of a truck, while Subaru's cars were slow and plodding vehicles. Audi was the one who came up with the idea of "Performance all-wheel-drive."
The 200's 220 horsepower turbo-charged 20 valve DOHC inline-5 gave it impressive performance. Its low center of gravity made it pretty chuckable. The innovative Quattro all-wheel-drive system gave the cars limpet handling in the dry. Moreover, it came with the advantage that AWD brings in the snow: seamless, easy, and highly dignified acceleration. It makes you think that you have grip on the road.
I think all cars with AWD or 4WD should comes with a card saying: "4 Driven Wheels Does NOT Help Braking!". It doesn't. All cars have 4-wheel brakes. Moreover, 4 driven wheels with no traction do NOT corner better, or do anything better, than 2 driven wheels with no traction. People think that their Audi is invincible in the snow, and that feeling makes them more vulnerable than someone like me, aware of my car's limitations and ready to correct for them.
As I looked closer at the remains of the no-longer sleek, once new, car, I noticed another thing that made me laugh. The car had good tires on it. Pirelli P-Zero 225/60Z-16s, in fact. Excellent performance tires ... on the race track. They are summer tires, and will grip the road exceptionally in the dry, pretty well in the wet, and not at all in the snow and ice. It would be like going mountain climbing wearing running shoes.
I looked into the car and saw a crying woman, not dressed for such cold weather. She looked upset. I knocked on the window and she tried to roll down the window. That is when I realized that the car was not running. She tried to open her door, then, but with no success. I then realized that not only was the car not running, I realized, but it looked to me like the frame was a little bent. It must have hit the ditch pretty hard.
I pulled the door handle. It unlatched but would not open. I took a good look at the car. It was leaking fuel- it would be dangerous for them to tow it, and extremely dangerous for her to try starting the car. When she made a motion to, I screamed at her and she quickly realized that I thought she shouldn't. I went to the back of my wagon, where I kept a toolkit. I used it as a general gopher car around my cabin, so I kept tools in it.
I grabbed a crowbar and went back to her car. I made motions in the air indicating that I wanted to pry her door open, and trying to explain to her that the car was most likely totaled. She finally nodded, and I pried open the door after some work. She was shaky and looked hurt. I picked her up, wordlessly, in my arms, and carried her to my Mercedes.
I quickly folded the rear seat and laid her down in the back, pulling a blanket over her and making sure she was warm. She was still crying. She started trying to tell me the story of what happened. I told her that she should tell me later. I mean, lets face it, this is a story the police and medical professionals need to hear. Why do I need to hear it? Answer: I don't.
"Do you know who your doctor is? You probably could use some medical help..."
"I don't know who I am ... I don't remember anything."
.... There is more of this story ...