Welcome 2014, snowpocalyse style.
DH and I are safely home, and from what I’ve seen on twitter and facebook, most of my friends have made it home too; or are at least in a safe place, sheltered from the weather. Weather forecasting is an art, and the forecasters work very hard to get it right as much as possible. But ya gotta love it when a forecaster/multiple forecasters get it as wrong as they did on Tuesday. James Spann has apologized for missing the mark on this, as well as JP Dice. Honestly, as hard as forecasting the weather is, you expect there to be misses. And for all the folks casting aspersions on the forecasters, let the ones who’ve never been wrong in their predictions cast the first stone.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, and lots of local leaders share in it. And when the schools, businesses, and governments all chose to release people into the weather at the same time it tends to be a bit chaotic in the best situations. Add in the snow turning into ice on the roads very quickly and you get horribly snarled.
Here’s my relatively easy trip home for it. This is a novella, so let me put a cut in here. I was released from work at 10:45am, and stuck around to finish a few small things. I was out the door by 10:50. I work on the top of a hill. There is no level way to get home from my work, only ones with varying degrees of incline. I chose a route that seemed like it would be relatively reasonable, and set out. The roads had already started accumulating a significant amount of coverage. I was traveling no more than 5 mph on the roads, and was leaving plenty of room between me and the car in front of me. I got about a mile down the road and started up the first significant hill and the traffic in front of me decided to slow down and stop. The traffic coming the other way started picking up, and several of the oncoming drivers had their windows down. I rolled mine down to speak, and found out that something had happened ahead and the road was completely blocked. I reached a place where I could turn around and an oncoming driver let me do a 3 point turn. First re-route.
After retracing my path halfway, I turned off the road I was on to head through the neighborhood behind a number of other vehicles. Its a bit less traveled road normally, but Tuesday wasn’t a normal day. Everyone had slowed down and was being considerate. After getting around a van that was stuck half in and half out of the road, traffic in front of me slowed down again. Another driver had her window down and I spoke with her. I found out there were more accidents blocking both lanes ahead. I had my gps running on the phone, and figured out another route in the neighborhood to miss the blockage. When I got to the turnoff for it, There was a large SUV stopped midway up a rise trying to get up the hill there. I waited on level ground until that vehicle managed to get up and turned onto the street I was trying to reach. After I turned on the cross street, I kept it low and slow and made it to the cross street and turned with no problems. There was a car coming in the opposite direction with the window down. I rolled my window down and found out I was going the wrong direction to get to the major road. I thanked the guy for the help and pulled part way into a driveway to turn around. And found that I was spinning my wheels trying to back out. Not good. I do keep kitty litter in my car in the winter, along with a blanket and some peanut butter crackers. I had to stop the car, get into the trunk, and open the kitty litter to pour a pile under each of the front tires. Sorry homeowner I don’t know, I left a small mess in your driveway. But it allowed me to get the car back on the road and headed to my home. Re-route number two.
I ended up back on the neighborhood road I had initially turned off onto, but I was past the blocked part. As I was headed to the main road, it ended up stopped for some reason. I watched several other cars turn around and take another side road. After a few of them went by, I did the same. Re-route number three. This was a good choice, and I ended up bypassing a good number of the folks ahead of me by shifting roads. By this time I had been on the road an hour. For local folks, I had made it to Centerpoint Parkway in the middle of Centerpoint. Thankfully folks were being mostly courteous and mindful of the weather conditions by keeping a decent distance between cars and allowing people access to the lanes as needed. It still took me 40 minutes to get down the parkway to 1st Avenue North.
By this time I had changed my radio station from satellite radio to local FM stations. I figured that local news would be good. That’s when I started realizing that this was not going to be a quickly resolved event. The radio stations are mostly located on the crest of Red Mountain. And people at the radio stations were not able to leave or get to the stations due to problems with the roads. I was starting to have flashbacks to January 1982. It was the first winter after we moved to Birmingham. And something very similar happened. I was a freshman in high school, attending school downtown. Dad worked downtown. He and a coworker friend of his picked me up that morning, then picked up the coworkers son at John Carrol, and we spent 5 hours getting out to what is now Clay. There was an ice storm, and we were out of school a week. A good chunk of Birmingham lost power that week. The remembrances didn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings.
After I got onto 1st Avenue North, it took me about 30 minutes to go what normally takes 10 into town. Unfortunately I was watching all the folks headed out of town crawling bumper to bumper. When I got to Woodlawn I was able to cut across and head into Crestwood. 56th Street had a couple of cars stopped on the side of the road, but I managed to make it to the Crestwood shopping center. Its a half mile from our house, which is up the side of Red Mountain. I chose to park the car in the shopping center parking lot and walk the last half mile. It was a wise decision. As I was walking up 56th Street, there were 6 cars that had gotten part way up the hill and gotten stuck. One car had slid down the hill and crashed into several other cars that were down further. So two and half hours later I made it home. DH made it home about an hour later. Unfortunately my mom was at work on Tuesday, and after 6 hours on the road realized she wasn’t going to make it home, so managed to make it to a hotel and get a room before things went entirely sideways Tuesday night.
Since then its been interesting to watch. I’ve helped pass along info to folks helping those looking for shelter and food. I’m not in a position to get out and physically help folks, but I can look up addresses of shelters and let folks know where some of the closest ones are. Yes,we help each other out when things are bad. I wish folks were more open to helping each other out when things aren’t this bad. Y’all take care out there.
edited 1-30-14 I forgot to add, about 45 minutes into the drive, my windshield wipers started to freeze and become less useful. So even with the defrost setting on high, trying to see out my windshield became an interesting addition to the drive.