Foolish youth challenges blizzard and learns lesson

Paul Silva thought he would fool his parents when he told them he wouldn’t be home for Christmas.


But Silva turned out to be the fool when he tried driving through a blizzard.

“I was a damn fool,” said the college student living in Minot.

Silva thought he could make it to Spearfish, S.D. before the storm hit. He was thinking about Christmas dinner, presents and being with his family when he left Minot about noon.

“I wanted to surprise them. I told them I wouldn’t be home until the day after Christmas,” he said.

He didn’t make it. The winter storm roared through the state on Sunday and Monday, dumping as much as 17 inches of snow in Dunn County. The temperature dropped to below zero and wicked winds of up to 55 mph whipped the snow into a frenzy that made white-out conditions in some places.

Roads quickly became snow packed and icy, making travel precarious, then dangerous, then impossible. A no-travel advisory was issued for most of the western part of the state on Monday. Roads were closed, including Interstate 94, which was barricaded from Montana to Bismarck and beyond.

Silva didn’t pay attention to weather reports, warning of Old Man Winter’s intentions. He had a 4-wheel-drive pickup, a full tank of gas and satellite radio.

It took about an hour for Silva to realize he had made a major mistake. The roads were starting to get slick, the wind was picking up and snow was falling like rain as he made his way to New Town. It took him three hours to get there.

Still, he pushed on. Three hours later, he pulled into Killdeer. By this time it was dark and Silva was getting scared.

Still, he pushed on. He was the only one on the road, which was a good thing because he couldn’t tell if he was staying on his side of the road. At times he was travelling about 20 mph.

The lights of Manning seemed to come out of nowhere.

“I figured I would take one town at a time,” Silva said.

But he didn’t make it to the next town, Dickinson.

“Something, some kind of animal, ran in front of my truck and I didn’t want to hit it. I swerved to miss it and slid off the road,” he said. “I didn’t know where I was at. I couldn’t see anything because the snow was blowing all over.”

He had a bottle of water and a candy bar. He wore a hoodie, a pair of stretch jeans, and some new Nike running shoes. He had no cell service and a quarter tank of gas.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

Time ticked away slowly, and Silva feared that those ticks might be his last.

But then he saw light cutting through the gloom. As they came closer, Silva saw that they were headlights.

Somebody else was on the road. Silva got out to wave it down, but he couldn’t stay out long.

The pickup stopped. A voice from the cab asked if he was all right. Silva said he was, but his truck was stuck. The voice said he would pull him out.

A person in a parka jumped out of the truck and opened the tool box and pulled out a tow rope. The person hooked the rope to Silva’s back bumper and to a hook on the front bumper of the other truck. The person put the vehicle in reverse and pulled Silva back onto the road.

Silva jumped out and quickly unhooked the tow rope to give it to his hero. The person waited around to make sure Silva was all right. One of Silva’s headlights was out, but other than that, things were OK. The voice drove off and disappearing into the night.

Silva limped into Dickinson and decided to not push fate. He got a hotel room in Dickinson then called his parents.

“They yelled at me for trying to make the trip,” he said with a chuckle.

Silva was stuck in Dickinson for two days. He bought a headlight at a store in Dickinson and left for Spearfish on Tuesday morning.

“I was just so stupid to be out on the road when the weather is like that,” he said. “You have to respect the power of a storm like this one.”

Share this post