Ethan Goetz mug

Ethan Goetz

Severe weather can come in different forms and can be a terrifying experience. In 2009, I found myself in a scary situation.

It wasn’t relentless rains, a tornado, flash flood or even a hurricane. It was snow and plummeting temperatures in early December.

I usually keep up with the weather forecast, but this particular winter I was living south of Fremont, Iowa. My home was in the country away from social media or cable.

Temperatures were warm for December that morning. I left for work wearing a fall jacket. I did not bring gloves or a stocking hat.

When I got to work, people were talking about the possibility of a strong arctic front that was due to arrive in the late afternoon. I began asking questions about the pending storm.

Meteorologists called for a quick dump of snow followed by an arctic front. I wasn’t too concerned. Most of the drive home was paved except for a one mile stretch of gravel.

As I left Ottumwa for my way home, the winds were howling and snow was blowing across the road. When I reached gravel, conditions deteriorated quickly.

About a quarter of a mile down the road, windswept snow had caused drifts to form. I plowed through a few of them before hitting a drift that stopped the car in its tracks.

The drift covered the width of the road and was at least 30 foot long which made it difficult to see. I was stuck with no help in sight and temperatures had plummeted to nearly zero degrees.

I had two choices: I could stay in the car or walk home. I chose the latter, which nearly took my life.

I could see a shimmer of light coming from a window of the house. I got out of the car and began walking.

Halfway home, I became disorientated. My vision began to fade and all I could see were bright yellow dots, similar to what you might experience when you shut your eyes tightly after staring at a bright light. But my eyes were open.

I stopped walking for a second and found that I had drifted off the road and was trudging through a snow-covered field. Frantically, I looked again for the lighted window and found it.

Marching like a soldier, I headed toward the light in knee-deep snow. I could barely see at this point. In what seemed like an eternity, I reached the light and found my way to the front door where I nearly collapsed. I made it.

This harrowing experience taught me to always be prepared and be alert to weather conditions. It can change quickly any time of the year. Especially in the winter.

Ethan Goetz is a reporter for the Pella Chronicle. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-628-3882, or by email at