1.31.2014

Snowpocalypse2014

After three long days stuck inside the house, the snow/ice mixture is starting to melt, and as quickly as it arrived, snowpocalypse2014 is over.

For any Birmingham resident (and residents of many other southern cites) the last three days have been pure hell. No, we didn't receive multiple feet (or even inches) of snow, but what we did receive completely paralyzed our beloved city.
It began with a botched forecast. Birmingham was supposed to get nothing more than a dusting of snow late Tuesday afternoon. No accumulation was expected, and no travel problems should were to occur. So, Tuesday morning life went on as normal. Kids got on school buses and the normal work commute began for so many. But things quickly took a turn. Snow began to fall much earlier than predicted, and that snow didn't stop. In fact, that snow quickly began to settle on the roadways. Panic ensued. 
Schools began dismissing early and companies started closing for the day. At one time, it seemed, every Birmingham resident was pulling onto the roadways trying to pick up kids from school and make it home before the roads got bad. It was too late. 

To make matters worse, the ground was just warm enough to melt the snow that was falling and then quickly refroze that water into ice. Which meant, underneath the white, fluffy snow that was hitting the ground was a sheet of ice. It made travel impossible.
Thankfully I left work just in time. I made it onto two interstates without any trouble. It wasn't until I hit the main road leading to our house that I saw the danger of the situation. My car, a tiny little thing that most definitely doesn't have four wheel drive, was sliding across the road. I live in Alabama. We don't experience this kind of weather, and we most certainly are not used to driving in it. When I finally got close enough to my house to see the driveway I took a deep breath of relief. I turned into the driveway and lost complete control of my car. It was quickly sliding straight into a ditch. I hit the brakes (which I know you aren't supposed to do, but I really had no other choice here), pulled up the emergency brake, and laid on the horn until Steven came running out of the house. Thankfully he was home and was able to maneuver my car back onto the driveway. I was trembling and scared, but I had no idea that my situation was nothing compared to what so many Birmingham residents were about to experience. 
When I got home I changed into a pair of warm sweatpants, poured a hot drink, and sat down on the couch to cuddle with my pups. That's when I turned on tv and started scrolling through facebook/twitter. That's when I realized the severity of the situation. People were trapped everywhere. Parents couldn't get to schools to pick up their children, husbands couldn't get home to their wives. Birmingham was at a complete gridlock. To make matters worse daylight was quickly disappearing and another hard freeze was expected to set in.
My dad left work about an hour after I did. He maneuvered the road ways (in a little car without four wheel drive) for over five hours and made it less than four miles from his office. Thankfully, he made it to a coworkers house where they opened their home to him and let him stay for the night. Many were not that lucky. The stories I've heard are unlike any other. People abandoning their cars in the middle of major highways and interstates and walking to shelter. People sleeping on the floor of a mall, the aisle of a drugstore, and for some, even the inside of their freezing cold car. My heart broke for so many of these people - like the mom who had to sleep at her office because she couldn't get to the daycare to pick up her three young daughters, or the nurses who worked 36 hour shifts because their relief couldn't get to the hospitals. Some of the heartwarming stories that have come out of this include the local Chick-fil-a who reopened the store Tuesday afternoon when he realized the cars sitting on the highway in front of him weren't going anywhere and cooked up every piece of chicken in the store just to walk through the elements delivering free food to stranded motorist. He even opened up the inside of the store as shelter for those who couldn't get home. Or the doctor who walked eight miles from one hospital to another to perform life saving brain surgery on a patient. And it seemed that every Birmingham resident who made it home opened up their warm homes to complete strangers to stay the night. These are the stories that prove that southern hospitality is about as real as it gets. These are the stories that warm my heart and make me proud to be from Birmingham, Alabama.
For those of you who don't live in the South, I know what you are thinking. How does a few inches of snow and ice cause such a disaster to a major city? The answer is simple: we aren't prepared for it. We are equipped like no other to handle things like tornadoes and hurricanes, those are common in the South. I think the entire state owns something like two sand trucks. Oh, and because the snow was predicted to hit south of Birmingham, those trucks weren't in the vicinity to help. And even if the trucks were there, they couldn't get to the roadways because of all the stranded and abandoned vehicles on the major interstates and highways.
That's why our city shuts down when snow is predicted. We don't have to equipment necessary to clear the roadways of snow and ice. We don't experience this kind of weather often enough to have that equipment. This article does an excellent job explaining in more detail why the South fell apart in the snow.
In all the chaos and panic one thing prevailed, the strong and generous hearts of so many southerners. It's a common story actually, a natural disaster hits one of our cities and we come together as family to protect and rebuild. The same story played out during the horrific April 2011 tornadoes.

I know one thing for certain, in the midst of a disaster there is no other place I would rather be than the South.

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12 comments :

  1. I think it's amazing how many people opened their doors to complete strangers so that people didn't have to stay in their cars all night! Sometimes crappy situations like this bring out the good in people.

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  2. Bestill my heart. I'm so thankful that you made it home safely and weren't stuck in that awful mess! Another blogger lives in Birmingham and it took her 12 hours to drive the 11 miles to get home, maneuvering the many abandoned vehicles. How absolutely horrifying! I hate when people make fun of the south for shutting down when only a little ice/snow is expected - I love how you explained it, and that article is genius! I'm in Texas, and we delayed opening until noon, with many schools actually closed on Tuesday. We only got a little ice, but again, we aren't prepared for anything like that! Praising all of those sweet souls that opened their homes, businesses, etc. to help those in need. I just love southern hospitality!

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  3. I am so glad you are safe. it is scary when weather like that happens to cities that arent prepared for it!! It is bad and dangerous enough for places that are prepared so i cant even imagine!

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  4. I didn't know last week when I started following you that you are a B'ham girl. So am I. Took me 4 1/2 hours to get home where it usually takes me no more than 20 minutes. Happy to hear you stayed safe!

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  5. I am glad to see things starting to melt and look normal again today! Sure makes me proud to live in Birmingham with all the amazing people who have been so kind to strangers in time of need! Restores my faith in humanity a little bit!

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  6. Glad you are okay, it can be scary when you are not prepared for that kind of weather. So great to see everyone stepping up to help each other.

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  7. I totally understand the frustration that you may feel when people are like "wow a few inches of snow?" i was born in Michigan and most of my family is still there. i now live in arizona (my mom and brother are here too) and whenever it's "cold" to us they make fun of us. im like um, we are used to 110+ degrees! when it is 40 degrees here, that is comparable to like 10 degrees in Michigan. we also have just about no humidity so when it's cold it's freakin cold.

    I'm glad you and your family were safe! stay warm! it's amazing to see people with such open arms.

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  8. I'm glad you were able to get home safe, and I feel awful for those who couldn't! It's easy for some of us (me included) to wonder what the big deal is over a little snow. I live in Michigan, so we've been getting hammered with it lately. But you are so right, the south is not used to it and not equipped to handle it. Plus, ice and snow are different (in my opinion), so dealing with both is awful. Thanks for writing such a great post on this!

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  9. I am so glad you made it home safely! I was stuck in that too, but in Atlanta. My 20 min commute somehow turned into 12 terrifying hours. I watched the news religiously Wednesday and wanted to cry all over again for those still stranded in it. Everytime I hear people talking smack about how Souterners don't know how to handle snow, I just want to punch them in the baby maker. There are no words to describe it for people that weren't stuck in it, and I am sure you and your family can agree.

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  10. This post reminded me of the article I saw comparing Atlanta during the storm to Atlanta during the zombie apocalypse.

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  11. So happy to know you're safe and sound. We are supposed to get another crazy amount over the next few weeks. I'm so over it.

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  12. I'm so glad that you are safe! I don't know about you but I am OVER this crazy weather!!!!! We live in the South it isn't supposed to snow!!!

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