So the thing about snow warnings in the South is that we rarely believe them. I mean, we hope for snow and heaven knows that we clear all the milk and bread out of the grocery stores, but we don’t really believe the snow will come. It’s just too rare.
Last night I read that the southern part of Alabama was supposed to get snow today; the forecast also said that Birmingham might get a “dusting.” I interpreted that to mean, “BIRMINGHAM, THERE WILL BE NO SNOW FOR YOU TOMORROW,” and I didn’t think much more of it.
About 9:30 this morning, though, it started snowing, and I still couldn’t imagine that it would amount to much. But around 10:45 my work sent everybody home. Schools all over the area were dismissing early, and I thought I had plenty of time to get to Alex since his school wasn’t getting out until 11:30. I was surprised by how much snow was on the ground when I got outside, but once I got in the car, turned on my windshield wipers and made my way out of the parking lot, I felt like everything was gonna be okay.
It only took about five seconds on the road to realize that the pavement was way icier than I had realized. Traffic was bumper to bumper and moving slowly, but I didn’t feel panicked or anything like that. Granted, there were a couple of times when the warning light for slick roads came on in my car, and it took me a second to figure out what it was because I HAD NEVER SEEN IT LIGHT UP BEFORE, but I kept moving down the road ever-so-cautiously. I figured that worst case scenario I might be a little late to pick up Alex if the traffic kept moving that slow.
Eventually I made it to my turn, but I noticed that no one was driving up the big hill to my right. I found out later that a car had run off the hill, but at the time I just figured it was too icy, so I turned around and thought I’d take a different route. I started to look at all the side roads and think about what hills I might encounter, and over the next minute or so a really sad realization started to sink in: I am not going to be able to make it to Alex’s school. David was leaving his office about that same time, though, so I figured that either he or one of our friends would be able to pick up Alex. I was trying really hard not to panic.
Only I wasn’t doing so well with the whole not-panicking thing.
There was one big-ish hill that I needed to climb in order to head back in the direction of work, and since the cars ahead of me didn’t seem to be having too many problems, I figured it would be okay to give it a try. It must have taken 30 minutes to move 100 yards – traffic was barely moving by that point – and there were a couple of times when my wheels would just spin and spin without me making any forward progress. All I knew to do was pray, “Lord, help me up this hill. Lord, help me up this hill. Lord, help me up this hill” – and after I put my car in the lowest possible gear, I finally made it to the red light. At that point I started praying, “Lord, help me make this turn. Lord, help me make this turn” – I was SCARED OUT OF MY MIND. I mean, I know that cold weather and icy roads is nothing to you folks in other parts of the country, but down here, WE DO NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THESE THINGS.
After I made the turn I was a nervous wreck; cars were sliding and spinning and a couple were on the side of the road. David had started to realize that he wasn’t going to be able to make it home from his office, so we were trying to coordinate how to get Alex, but cell service got jammed and we couldn’t talk. Traffic was still just barely creeping, and I started to have visions of winding up on the news because I was trapped in my car. Plus, I noticed that I only had about 1/4 tank of gas, so I started to whittle down my options: go back to work (which was only about 1/4 mile away), go to a gas station, or try to get to the house. Two of those options involved hills, so I picked the one that didn’t and went back to work.
Since cell service still wasn’t working, D and I were dependent on texts, and over the course of the next hour, we must have had 10 different plans to get Alex home. Every single one of them fell through, though, because people were having trouble getting to his school.
And my mama heart was very sad.
By three I had started to realize that the folks in my little family were pretty much stuck. We knew that somebody could probably get to Alex (and sure enough, our neighbor Jeremy made it to the school) – but whether or not they’d be able to get home was another story. D and I decided that since Alex’s teacher was staying for the duration, we’d rather that he stay at school – where it was warm and he could play with his friends – than to get on the road and risk not making it home. It probably won’t surprise you that A was DELIGHTED with this decision and seemed to think that he had stumbled into THE GREATEST ADVENTURE OF HIS LIFE, oh bless him.
Roads are still a mess here. I have heard stories all afternoon of people who were in their cars for six or seven hours before they abandoned the cars and started walking. Some cars slid off the road and into the Cahaba River. There are thousands of people who are still in their cars and stuck on the roads. It’s supposed to be super cold tonight and again tomorrow.
Isn’t that surreal?
There are still about 200 kids at Alex’s school, and they’re all spending the night there tonight (with their phenomenal teachers). Alex’s teacher will take such good care of him (and from what I hear, the kids are having a blast). David is staying at his office tonight, and I’m staying at my work. I really am glad that we didn’t try to brave the roads – because we’d still be on them. My little family is just fine even if we’re not all together. Hopefully we’ll be able to get back home tomorrow.
So. I think it’s safe to say that the state of Alabama would appreciate your prayers. And I really thought I would try to make this post lighthearted since the whole day has been so full of serious, but I decided about a half hour ago that none of this is funny to me yet. It will be. Eventually. But I’m gonna have to give it some time. :-)
Even still, I think this is a pretty good assumption for tomorrow:
(It made me laugh when someone sent me that on Twitter.)
(It’s so true.)
Y’all stay warm and hug your people real tight tonight.
And just for the record: when I finally get home, I reserve the right to never leave again.
(* They really are calling it Winter Gridlock.)
(* I’ve never heard of such, but I appreciate the originality.)