It snowed in Alabama in case you haven’t heard. And we reacted to it exactly like we always do: sheer and utter panic. Except this time it was 100 times worse. Why? There are lots of reasons which I won’t go into. If you’re interested in that sort of thing and/or you want to find out why you’re an asshole for making fun of what happened, I suggest you read this Gizmodo post that was actually written by a Yankee who now lives in Alabama. (Caution: strong language Also: don’t read the comments. just don’t.)
In case you weren’t following my saga on Twitter, this is what happened to me between the hours of 10:00 AM on Tuesday to about 4:00 PM on Wednesday.
I knew it was supposed to snow. I wore flats (with socks!) for this very reason. I even brought my umbrella into work for when the snow inevitably changed to rain. The weather forecast was for a light dusting which is always pretty and doesn’t cause any travel problems.
I noticed that it was starting to snow around 9:30. It was basically just flurries and it certainly wasn’t sticking. I was at table rounds with my clinical team and was facing a window. About a half hour later, I looked up to see that it was starting to fall a lot harder and was beginning to stick to the grass and a little on the buildings. It was really pretty. But by the time rounds were over (about 10:45), it was basically pouring snow. And it was sticking to the roads. I immediately got on Twitter and began seeing reports about missed forecasts and the possibility of anywhere from 2-4 inches. For a city that rarely sees snow at all, 2-4 inches is practically a blizzard. The temperature was a lovely 20° which meant only one thing: ice.
I live in the foothills of the Appalachians. We have “mountains” and I happen to live on top of one. I work in the valley and have to get over another mountain and through another valley to get to the mountain I live on. Having experience driving up that mountain in snow last year, I did not care to repeat the experience.
Last year, 2.5 inches of snow fell in less than 2 hours and caused a general panic. I left way too late (because I was told “it wasn’t a big deal” and that I was “being dramatic” for worrying about getting up the mountain to my house) and sat in traffic for 3 hours trying to get home.
By 11:00 Twitter was telling me that traffic was already backing up and that there was ice forming quickly on the bridges and overpasses. A tractor trailer had already jack knifed and basically the shit had hit the fan. Schools were closed and every parent in the city left to pick up their kids at the same time. So obviously the result was mass chaos. Concerned parents + lack of experience with winter precipitation of any kind + hilly, winding roads = bad news bears. My plan was wait until everything died down, hopefully around 2:00 or 3:00, and then head home. I figured by then the sand trucks would have come through and least done the main roads.
It only got worse as more people tried to leave work. There were accidents everywhere. Traffic wasn’t moving at all. Ambulances couldn’t get to the hospital. Women had babies on the side of the interstate. The sand trucks were stuck in Montgomery where they had been dispatched because that’s where it was supposed to snow. The Carpenter had left work at 11:00 and by 3:00 had failed to make any progress at all.
At 1:30 I decided that I was safe, I was warm, and I wasn’t about to spend the night on the interstate like they were already predicting was going to happen. I went down to the gift shop and bought some contact solution and a toothbrush, got some scrubs to sleep in, and prepared to spend the night at the hospital. I wasn’t thrilled and I was very worried about Caty Cat, but I was glad I wasn’t out on the roads. And around 7:30, after over 8 hours of attempting to get more than 2 miles from work, The Carpenter arrived at the hospital.
I will be the first to admit that I am incredibly lucky. I wasn’t in a shelter with strangers, I didn’t have to abandon my car and walk 5 miles (one of my neighbors walked 8!) to get home, I wasn’t in a wreck, and I wasn’t spending the night somewhere on I-65. If you ever find yourself getting stranded due to weather, I highly recommend hospitals. I may have slept on the floor of my office, but I got free food, lots of blankets, and The Carpenter was with me. It wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but it certainly wasn’t the worst.
Hospital days start early so we were up and dressed by 6:30. The Carpenter had originally planned on going to work, but got a text saying they were closed. So he spent the morning mapping out various ways to get home that didn’t involved still jammed roads and had minimal hills. The plan was for us to leave together and me to follow him until he got off the interstate and I continued home.
That plan changed when my dad, in a heroic effort to get to Caty in case I couldn’t, was forced to walk 2+ miles, mostly uphill, to get to my house. My parents knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle the icy roads and since I am a panicker, it was decided by everyone that The Carpenter driving me home was the best idea all around. We decided to go to his apartment, get his truck, and then make our way slowly over some back roads to my house because the interstate was still a nightmare, despite being both sanded and salted. Tractor trailers + icy mountains = accidents that take two days to clear.
We did manage to make it home. The drive to my house was interesting (I’m SO glad I didn’t try to drive; my car would have never made it) and we did have to be pulled up a hill but some really awesome (and possibly Canadian) guys in a Jeep Wrangler with snow chains and ropes. They were super efficient and had apparently been driving around rescuing Southern drivers from the ice all day. I got home around 3:30; it took us just under 2 hours to get there which included a stop to change cars. All in all, not bad considering we drove literally halfway around the metro area and had to fight some seriously icy roads.
Caty was inordinately pissed that I abandoned her overnight but she eventually got over it. I took her outside yesterday morning while I was waiting for the roads to thaw enough for Dad to take me to my car. She had previously not been a fan of the snow, but this time she found it delightful and tried to roll in it.
So that’s my 30 hour saga of the Snowpocalypse of 2014.