Driving across the towering Washington Cascade Mountains in winter can be treacherous. A clear day with dry road conditions can suddenly turn into blinding whiteout and slippery roadways.
For a woman traveling alone, an unexpected change in weather can be a formula for a harrowing experience.
Former Tri-Cities resident, Catherine Lenox, recalls the rainy January afternoon in 1997 when she set out from the west side of the state to her Kennewick home, thoughts of her recent visit with her cousin foremost on her mind. But what she believed would be an uneventful four-hour drive on Interstate-90 was not to be.
“As I headed toward Snoqualmie Pass, a blizzard hit and I couldn’t see a thing,” Catherine remembers about the sudden change in the weather.
Inching her way forward in her front-wheel drive vehicle, the conditions worsened while the petite blonde called out for God’s grace in the midst of the storm.
“I was so unnerved by the lack of visibility,” Catherine says of the dangerous driving conditions, “I stopped my car by the side of the road to breathe.”
As she sat with hazard lights blinking, a vehicle drove slowly by – and then stopped.
“The driver called out to me through their open window, ‘Do you need help?’” Catherine reminisces about the moment the surprising assistance arrived.
Over the roar of the wild storm, Catherine hollered to assure her female rescuer that she did indeed need a “helping hand” to get over the pass. As a new state resident, the road was unfamiliar terrain.
“I know this mountain,” the woman in the other vehicle shouted as she advised Catherine to drive closely behind her.
As they wound up and over Snoqualmie Pass, all Catherine could see through the blinding snow were the red taillights just ahead. It wasn’t until the menacing storm was behind them that the two cars stopped near the bottom of the Cascades.
Only then did the women made a surprising discovery.
“I climbed out to thank this wonderful stranger,” Catherine smiles at the memory, “and to my surprise, it was my high school science teacher from California!”
A coincidence or “small miracle”?
For Catherine, it was a reminder that from the very start of her journey, she had never been traveling alone.