Feb 3, 2014

#Snowpocalypse2014, Day 1

When I set out for my doctor's appointment last Tuesday morning before going to work, I wasn't even a LITTLE bit concerned about our forecast for "a possible light dusting of snow with no chance of accumulation."

When I got to the doctor's office at 9:40, light flurries had started, and I thought that's where it would end. That's all we usually get.

But when I was checking out at the receptionist's desk half an hour later, she said, "It's actually SNOWING outside." And I asked, "Snowing? Or SNOWING?" She answered, "SNOWING."

I still wasn't all that concerned, because the forecasters had said that anything that fell wouldn't stick, but when I walked out the door, I was kind of like, "Huh."

I mean, I'd only been inside for about 35 minutes, and even though it wasn't a LOT of accumulation, the flakes were pretty big. And they were coming down hard.

When I got in my van, I thought to myself, "I would call that 'accumulation'."

Let me tell you something. When I backed out of my parking space in that officeplex and then put the van in Drive to go forward again, my rear tires spun just a little bit. THAT'S when I knew. I wasn't scared for myself, but I knew. The whole city was about to go down. the. tubes.

My doctor's office is in Trace Crossings, which is the neighborhood in which Hoover High School is located. They'd just released all of the high school students, and they were packing the main road out. Hundreds and hundreds of cars, and tires spinning everywhere. LAWD. It was a FREAKING MESS. And the snow was getting HEAVIER! NOT LIGHTER!

The elementary school called to say that my own kids were being released and to come get them. DOY. I was trying to get there, but at this rate it was going to take me two hours, and it was only a few miles away. Up the mountain.

I creeped and crawled, slid and slode. YEP, JUST MADE THAT UP. I watched accidents happen, saw people slide off the road, helpless to do anything to assist them. Hoover Police SUVs were going around us on all sides, but I had no idea where they were going. I kept thinking about pulling over and beginning to walk home or to the school, but I was still two miles from home, four miles from school and wearing suede ankle boots with no jacket. Or hat. Or scarf. (I really have a lot of faith in our meteorologists, Internet.)

I made it about a third of the way up the mountain, and that was it. I mean, for Alabama, these were white-out conditions.

The snowflakes were as big as marshmallows, and people were abandoning their cars on both sides of Shades Crest Road. Those who weren't abandoning them were driving up and then sliding back down ... into the people below them.


For the entirety of the more than two hours I'd been "driving," I'd been trying to make contact with the elementary school, but I either got the "All circuits are busy" message or dead silence ... no cell connection at all. (And it stayed like that for three days. The city's cellular network just remained completely overloaded.)

I did get another text from the school system saying that they would stay with our kids until parents could get there, so I left my car in a blank spot (please take special notice below how there's a good empty 20 feet in front of me where I parked) with the emergency brake on so it wouldn't slide, and I decided to walk home.

As I started to trek down Shades Crest a little, I saw more people out of their cars, and yet more people still trying to drive their way up. Some of those optimists would probably be the ones whose cars later ended up ON MINE.

So I was picking my way very carefully across the ice -- because MAKE NO MISTAKE, it was already ice, not snow -- in my high-heeled suede ankle boots, someone rolled down her window and started talking to me. It was one of our Extended Day Program teachers, Peyton!

Peyton was also stranded there on the shoulder of Shades Crest, and panic was starting to set in. Her younger sister was stuck at Simmons Middle School, and her parents were stuck at work. None of them could get to each other, and she didn't know what to do, so I invited her to walk home with me. I knew eventually I'd have to go pick up my boys, but even so, she would be safer at our house alone than she would be out on the road by herself in her car. So I told her to call her mom and tell her she was coming home with a stranger!

Not too long after we set out together, I slipped and fell. And I don't really mean that I simply "slipped and fell." I mean I slipped and BUSTED MY BUTT. I was trying to protect my work laptop, and I flailed my arms, windmilling around in what seemed like 12 directions for 30 seconds before flying through the air and landing on my knees and stomach on the ice, knocking the wind out of me. OH IT WAS EPIC. And two men and a young boy witnessed it all. Yep.

Once I was able to stand up again, we continued walking. Well, I limped. As we walked/limped, we saw some wrecks ... this one was just two blocks from my house..

This guy in the white truck was bound and determined that he was going to get off this Lexus SUV and make it up the biggest hill in our neighborhood. So these really nice guys tried to help him.

I will say this: Caliente Drive now has an extra few layers of rubber on it, courtesy of that guy's tires. SUH-MOKE.

He zig-zagged all OVER the road trying to get up the hill. He almost took out a couple of mailboxes along the way.

We finally made it to our house, and everything looked deceptively pretty and peaceful. I'd been trying to keep in touch with Grayson, too, but at this point he still hadn't even been able to make it to Amelia's daycare center.

And the flakes just kept falling and falling and falling. Four hours on.

This is what our "light dusting with no accumulation" had started to look like.

Finally around 4:00, I told Peyton that since we only had an hour until dark, I needed to go if I was going to go ... so I set out to get the boys from school. Another friend and neighbor, Cindy, let us borrow her SUV and her husband Dwayne ... he actually drove the kids to the halfway point between school and our house, which was a real blessing. Did it keep the boys from complaining about the remaining walk and the cold? No. But it was nice of him, all the same.

 The streets were just ice. Solid ice with the lightest layer of snow on top. Unbelievable.

It's a little more obvious in the next two pictures, where you can see the grey lurking there, just underneath that thin layer of snow. So dangerous. Nick and Nathaniel walked a good bit ahead and me and Jake.

As we walked, I stopped to try to get a picture of the light dusting. Can you see it? Toward the bottom of the picture. That three inches or so above the concrete.

You know, I do have to insert something here: Meteorology is a tricky, tricky thing. And I'm not upset with our favorite local meteorologist, James Spann. As far as I'm concerned, James is a national treasure. (And he's already given himself the ultimate public flogging, which was totally unnecessary, by the way. He's such a humble man.) I only wish schools had been closed at the onset of the snow event so that we could have gotten to our children sooner. And I cannot, CANNOT, as a person who has entire pieces of DNA that are literally labeled "snark," not repeatedly remark on the LIGHT DUSTING. Okay, digression over.

I wasn't sure Jake could make it all the way home without assistance, especially since Nick took off ahead of us with all the hats and gloves I'd brought along.

But he made it. He hung in there with me, and I tried to play games like I Spy and Follow My Footsteps with him to keep him occupied. And help him forget about frostbite and hypothermia.

The boys were upset that Grayson and Amelia hadn't made it home yet, and when I told them that there was a very real probability that they'd be staying overnight at daycare, they were just devastated. Then they managed to find a silver lining.

Meanwhile, I took a look at my knees.

I think it was around then that I Tweeted this picture with the caption: "Are we having fun in the snow yet?" SO NOT PLEASED.

Meanwhile, Grayson and 14 other daycare parents, children and a number of staffers were snowed in at our center. Amelia didn't know what was up, but at least she had some friends and a whole bunch of people who dote on her every day around her, so ... How bad could it be?

They decided that it would be safer and easier to bring snow inside to the kids than to take the kids outside, and I thought that was brilliant.

They had hot food, plenty of beds for the kids, diapers and wipes ... they were totally set up for the kids.

I bet the kids just kind of thought it was a big slumber party.

The adults definitely had a tougher time of it. They stayed glued to the news all night ... Grayson tried to sleep sitting up in a chair, but he only got about an hour and a half, he said. I do think he bonded with several of the other parents, though.

I'd say once you go through this kind of experience with people, you're connected.

I know this is one of the longest posts I've ever written, but I wanted to share the real experience with you guys. Day 2's story coming up tomorrow.

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