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Winter Storm 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good morning, Lovelies!  It is so wonderful to be home safely due to the winter storm.

On Tuesday morning while I was in Pilates class, we noticed that it had started snowing hard.  The forecast only called for light flurries and maybe a possible dusting for the Birmingham and Central Alabama area.  The bulk of the winter weather was supposed to hit Montgomery and farther south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The forecasters were wrong….dead wrong.  It was a not so subtle reminder that God is in control, for sure.

I ran home (one minute away) from Pilates and grabbed a light jacket and my purse/cell phone and headed to my daughter's school to check her out.  We live on Oak Mountain and these things tend to affect us more because the road over the mountain is treacherous on a sunny day.  By the time I left our neighborhood and made it to the top of the mountain, conditions were so hazardous that a truck had jackknifed on the mountain and I had to turn around and go the "back way" down Dunnavant Valley.  Then I had to go over the mountain on Highway 280.  This delayed me and caused me to get in the gridlock around Birmingham.

I finally made it to Valleydale Road in about four hours (my daughter's school is just off Valleydale), and I hit even more gridlock.  Below is a photo of a 24 car pile-up soon after it happened, and as more cars tried to get through Valleydale, folks abandoned their cars, sometimes on the street because many people were running out of gas.  There were at least 500 or so cars in this area alone Tuesday night.  (The Fox Lake Farm property is visible on the right where my daughter rides.)

Valleydale Road accident via Twitter

The cause for much of the gridlock is this:  School administrators dismissed schools and businesses closed around the same time, but Hoover City Schools (where we live) delayed their dismissal more than the other districts. As a result, some 4600 students had to spend the night at their schools in Hoover.

Since I couldn't get through Valleydale to get to my daughter's school, I did a u-turn (absolutely no traffic headed in the opposite direction) and drove about 500 yards to a fire station.  I noticed a snowplow and sand truck there, and they were preparing to put sand down on Valleydale once crews cleared a path.  In the interim, my friend Lulu and her husband Robert heard I was at the firestation and invited me to dinner at their house just a block away. After the best chicken wings and pizza I'd ever had, it was time for the sand trucks and plow to make the road safer.

The sand truck and snowplow wrecked into each other.  (I can't make this up), plus the plow was behind the truck, pushing the sand out of the way!  :/

It took yet another thirty minutes for the trucks to be disentangled and set to rights.  Once the sand was down, it improved the road enough for me to get through so I could get to Christ Church United Methodist, home of Stonecreek Montessori School.

I arrived at 10:30 PM, approximately twelve hours from the time I left home. Shelley was happy to see me, and I was happy to be there with the kids and faculty over night.

Several of the kids from the local high school wrecked their cars in front of the church.  I think it was reckless of the high school to release those kids to drive home, but they did.  We took in several girls from Spain Park High School and a few kiddos from Jeff State Community College.  The church was so gracious to serve the kids their Wednesday Night Meal a night early, and the kids slept in the church's sanctuary.

At noon yesterday, I drove as far as I could up the mountain (Hugh Daniel Drive), precariously parked my car on the flattest shoulder I could find, and walked up the mountain and down to our subdivision's gate.  Several young men and dads had ATV's and were taking turns giving folks rides to their homes.  I want to thank the young man who took Shelley and me home.  It was irresponsible of Hoover not to have the mountain barricaded.  Again, epic failure for the City of Hoover.  Plus, I walked by two abandoned Hoover police SUV's on the mountain.

We also walked up the mountain with a Berry Middle School student who had walked from school.  How can this happen?  It is over 14 miles from our home to Berry, and this little guy lives about another two miles farther than our home.  I think it's very irresponsible for a school to allow a student to walk that far.

I'm so sad over the loss of life and those who were injured as a result of this debacle.  Please understand that I'm not upset with the meteorologists because people make mistakes.  I'm VERY upset that our state and local officials were not prepared for this.  It was chaotic, and I didn't see many authorities trying to help at all with the exception of the nice folks at the Firehouse.  And since I spent most of my time on Valleydale Road amidst abandoned cars, it was surreal, truly… a zombie apocalypse.  I felt like I was on the set in Atlanta for The Walking Dead!

I learned many, many lessons as a result of this mess:

1.   If you think you can depend on your government in times of crisis, think again.

2.   No one, no vehicle can drive on ice.  Sand helps on ice very little, and we have no salt trucks in Alabama.

3.   Alabamians are generally kind.  I want to thank The Home Depot on Highway 280 for their generosity in passing-out water bottles to motorists and Chick-Fil-A for giving out free food.  I will be a  customer to both businesses in the future…they've earned my loyalty.

4.   I will keep water bottles in my car from now on as well as an emergency kit.  I was not dressed appropriately in Pilates clothes and a light jacket. Fortunately I was not stuck in my car for the single digit temperatures.

5.   My family will have an emergency plan from now on.  

6.   I will not vote for a single incumbent locally in the next election, and I don't care what his or her political affiliation is……they had their chance to lead, and they failed us all.  I only wish I had the right to vote for school board members and superintendent.  

7.   Kudos to many local businesses and churches who took in folks in need. They were wonderful, and these are folks you can depend on.

8.   I also must give kudos to the Shelby County Fire and Rescue.  They came to our school twice to check on the kids, and they even gave us good advice about road conditions and the safest routes to help the parents get their children home safely.  They are the ONLY local authority who seemed to care in my world.  They are also bringing home stranded folks in our neighborhood, too.  I have yet to see anyone around here from Hoover, but maybe I missed them.

9.   Check on your neighbors, even if you aren't very close to them. Sometimes it's the little things, like taking in a pet home alone, that can mean so much to a family.

10.  You can depend on your friends and neighbors.  Thanks Lulu, Robert, Ainslie, Randy, Tracy, Rachel, and Natalie.

I want to apologize if this is too much of a rant.  I'm tired, I'm traumatized, and I'm going to enjoy the next several days with my daughter because school is out until Monday.  I am very thankful that no one close to me was hurt, and I'm equally thankful that I didn't harm anyone on the roads.

I'll be back next week.  I need to just live in the comfort of our home for a few days.

Until next time…

Ricki Jill


  1. Rant away! I have. So glad to hear that you and your family are safe.

  2. Good grief, what a disaster! Glad you and yours are OK... enjoy your extended weekend at home :)

  3. Ricki,

    I am so sorry to hear about your experience. Sadly this has been an all too common experience this winter in the South. As you say, we are not equiped to deal with this sort of weather and subsequent fiasco.

    I think the blame can be laid on many but mostly mother nature, as no matter what the preparations the city/state would have made as you mentioned ice in not something that any car is capable of driving on. Then you take into account many, many motorists that are on the road, and numerous accidents you have a recipe for disaster.

    I am not in your area but I live in the South, currently visiting Wisconsi and all week there have been reports on our weather stations about the ice, and snow coming to NC, SC, Alabama, VA, LA and many other states. I wonder why this was not reported on your stations. I have many family members in SC, NC and their schools were already closed on Monday in preparation for this weather.

    Thank God you were able to finally make it to your daughter and find her safe and sound. Thank God for all of those who helped you, there are good people in the world.

    Enjoy your percious daughter. Be safe and sound.


  4. For all of the crazy weather we have up here in Central New York, I can say that I do not think any of us could fully comprehend your chaos without having read about it. Unreal. So glad you are safe, and that there were folks to depend on, even if they were not who you expected and hoped.

  5. I'm so relieved to know you and your family are safe at home now. I read your whole post aloud and my hubby and I both sat here and talked about our experiences. It's so scary to be in a situation like that but I know you were very glad to be at the school with your daughter over night. Get some rest my friend. I'm sending you bunches of hugs...pass them around to your sweet family. Hugs, Diane

  6. O my word! That sounds terrible! So glad you guys are okay!

  7. I cannot believe that the schools released kids on their own - we had a disaster plan and as a teacher with no children at home, I was on the stay 'til the end list.

    We have an earthquake preparedness kit at home. In 1994, we were caught with two cars on empty, no food and no cash on hand (we had just driven home from vacation hours before) when the Northridge earthquake hit 60 miles away and left us with no power.

    You make me realize that my workout bag has only my swimsuit and goggles in it. I need to put a warm jacket, a fleece blanket and an old pair of running shoes in the back of the car and leave them there.

    I am so glad that you are all safe and no one was hurt in your family.

  8. Very scary lesson and yes in an emergency we are more on our own now than ever even with all the technology. Broke govts, idiots running them and scrambling around is scary stuff. When we had our big wind storm here a couple of years ago my husband had to go out and work for about 18 hours at time but there were so many people out at restaurants and blocking roads with no signals that it took them hours to get from one area to another. It was bedlum and folks were freaking cause they could not charge their cell phones. I bet it did seem like the walking dead in winter

  9. Well, I'm happy you are all safely home. ♡ It was wonderful to hear about the generosity and kindness of the churches and businesses.

    People around here don't know how to drive in a downpour.

    An alternative to snow tires for areas where it rarely snows is to keep a pair of chains in the car, and learn how to put them on.)

  10. I am so happy you and your family is safe. I loved reading how the people pitched in and helped, the churches and local business. It is always during these rough times when one sees what people are made of. An emergency kit in the car is a great idea, you never know and a emergency plan is a wonderful idea too! It is a shame the schools and businesses did not think and stagger the release of people.

    BIG HUGS to you and Shelley!

  11. Ricki Jill, I'm thankful you and your family are safe and can relax a few days in the comfort and warmth of your home. What a traumatic experience. I think your plan for keeping a few emergency things in your car is great advice for all of us. As a teacher, I've been through a few of these scary days myself. We were never stranded at school over night, but I know the stress of early dismissal where some parents couldn't or didn't get to the school till many hours later. That left those of us remaining with the students in danger as we tried to make our way home on icy roads late in the day. Everyone needs an emergency plan set in place.
    Take care and stay warm.

  12. I'm so glad you and your family are home safely, RJ! Ice is the worst. So dangerous. Let's all pack up and move to Tahiti. ;-)

  13. Wow, I am so sorry this happened to you. I live in Wisconsin. We are having a an awful cold winter.
    I am so glad you are okay. And I am thankful you wrote this post.

  14. I am so sorry for all the trauma this has caused for all of you involved in this mess. We watched much of it on the looked like everyone was pointing fingers. It's sad that you were involved, but every time there is a tragedy or catastrophe, there is a big lesson learned and you can be sure something of this magnitude will never happen again.

    Again, I'm happy that you are safe at home again with your daughter. Your version of this was captivating to say the least!


  15. Goodness that was traumatic...An adventure Your daughter will remember the rest of her life!! Rant away, from watching the news you aren't the only one ranting! Enjoy the quite of home and the love of those around you!


  16. i love your passion.
    It is amazing how adults to think out the consequences for young adults that have no experience driving in such conditions. Oh my heart sinks for those young ones on their own walking so far.
    I guess there is some truth to that old tale of walking home up hill the whole way in the snow. ;)
    Hug your family and yay to those who helped.

  17. We have been watching the news about this and was wondering which bloggers where hit by it. We are use to the snow in WV, but I can only imagine what you all went through. I was joking with Hubby a few weeks ago I want to move south where there was no snow.

  18. Wow, what an experience. I am just so happy that you are safe at home now. The deep south is definitely not prepared for snowstorms. xo Laura

  19. I can't believe that kid walked from Berry to your area! Someone over there should be horsewhipped. I am so glad you and your daughter made it home safely finally. The locals did not handle this well at all. At least the Gov sort of got out in front of it, unlike GA's.

    When I lived in Colorado, we always had a tow rope, a shovel, water, a blanket, granola bars, etc, in the car. Of course, you can't drive on ice, no matter where you are.

    You certainly made a great point about not being able to depend on anyone but yourself and your neighbors. I guess retirement has its perks, as we were at home, safe and warm with everything we needed. At least there were few power outages, which in itself is amazing.

    Hang in there, and we'll look for you next week.


  20. Came on expecting to see your review of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches and read this instead. Glad you are ok--what a scary experience. The thought of that young boy being allowed to leave and walk all that way is very scary.

    This is a timely message. After weeks of summer-like temperatures it's back to winter weather here this weekend--just as my son is heading up to the mountains. Going to make sure that he is prepared.
    Carole (Stapes)

  21. I am so, so glad that you're OK (and your family is)! When an area is unprepared for disaster, that's the worst situation. Clearly, mistakes were made...and your rage is totally justified, for the lives that were endangered.

  22. RJ,
    We west coast people watched in horror at all of the mishaps and missteps that occurred in the south. It would be the same for us because we so rarely experience severe weather. I'm happy you and your family are safe. Rest well and enjoy your weekend.

  23. Bless you Ricki Jill...when something like this happens it takes days to decompress. Rest and enjoy your family. I'm so glad you are all OK. ~Ann

  24. Nothing wrong with a good rant, I am glad to hear you are home safe and sound I can't imagine how hard it would be to drive on icy roads.

  25. I come to you by way of Welcome to Lavender Dreams. I live in Northern Colorado on the plains were we do get our share of snow and bad weather. We have seen how bad it was in the south. I cannot believe that the schools let kids leave with such bad roads. Chalk it all up to lack of experience compounded with bad thinking. I am glad that you are well and safe now.

  26. Hi Ricki Jill, So glad you're home and Shelley is safe. What a comedy of errors and bad judgment, you have to shake your head in wonder when the sand truck and snowplow wreck into each other. My sister lives in Atlanta and had a 7 hour commute home and never made it pick up my nephew. It boggles the mind how a major metropolitan area can plan so poorly. On a happier note, I hope you're relaxing and enjoying your daughter with warmer weather and in the company of a few good books this weekend :)

  27. Even though it must have been very traumatic, it really could have been so much worse. I'm so thankful that you stayed safe on the roadways, had a warm place to stay and got your daughter home safe and sound.

  28. God Bless you, we watched all of this on T.V. So glad you and yours are doing good now and that so many Christ like people helped.

  29. So glad that you and your family are alright!

  30. What a terrible ordeal! We're giving a talk at our PTA meeting this month about being prepared for things like this and having a plan. It's so important!

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