Live from the Alabama Arctic

When I left for work this morning at 9:30, it was just starting to snow. A good, steady, powdery snow. I thought, how lovely, it’s going to flurry for a while.

Like the local weatherman, I was wrong.

The snow swirled around on the interstate instead of melting. Odd, I thought; when it snows in the South, it almost never sticks on the big roads.

I wasn’t at the school for 30 minutes before they announced they were canceling. I left immediately – as did every student at the huge public high school next door. The roads were already coated with snow. Turn left: an accident at the base of a hill. Turn around: more hills, more sliding vehicles, more accidents. I turned into a neighborhood that I knew meandered its way to a busy road that would take me to the interstate. If I can just get to a big road, it’ll be melted there.

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We weren’t even moving!

I’ve lived in this city for six years now. I know it’s hilly, but I never realized how every other curve is actually steep hill. I have 4 wheel drive (for once, I was grateful for the car I call Albatross), so I was doing ok…until I saw another SUV slide down the hill I was about to go up.

Ain’t no way, I thought, wondering if I was going to end up stuck in my car or knocking on somebody’s door to ask for shelter. I tried to go back the way I came…hills, accidents, abandoned cars. Father, keep me safe.

It was already nearly an hour since I left the school, and as the crow flies I was maybe a mile away. I was trying one last outlet, about to go down a hill, when a woman came walking up the hill and flagged me down. I rolled down my window.

“Don’t go that way!” she called. “There’s no way out!” She came up to my window and continued, “I just slid all the way down that hill, I was trying to go pick up my grandchildren; you can’t get out that way, turn around! ____ Road is blocked and so is ____!” Those roads…the only way I had to get home.

“Do you live near here?” I asked, my mind racing to find my last options.

“Yes, yes, just down the road there, I’m walking there.”

“Can I give you a ride?”

And so I met Sherry. We parked my car at the top of a hill near her house and walked down. She insisted I come to her house once I told her how far away I lived. She didn’t have to insist too hard.

She immediately made us hot cider. “We have a guest bed,” she said, “You can stay here if you need to! Mark,” she called to her husband, “I found the sweetest young teacher! She’s going to stay with us!” Then, “I’m going to make a pound cake! Do you want soup? I’ll make soup!”

It has not gotten above 19 Fahrenheit outside. From the warmth of Mark and Sherry’s home, with a fire roaring, I am watching the live news footage of the weather and the roads I had intended to take home. Complete gridlock, even on the interstate. People are abandoning their cars and walking to find shelter. A state of emergency has been declared. The National Guard is activated. Sherry and Mark’s children are stuck at their offices; their grandkids are stuck at school.

I know that all of you in the North are laughing at us and our 1-2 inches of snow. Yes, it is a laughable amount of snow. We never get snow. We don’t have the equipment or resources to deal with it in a timely manner, and we don’t know how to drive in it. Thousands of people are panicking, trying to get to their kids, and sliding down icy hills.

Yesterday I asked God to fix my car for cheap; he fixed it for free. Today I asked him to get me home safely. He said no, that’s not going to work. I’m going to send you to Sherry and Mark. They’ll take care of you.

If you’re in Arctic Alabama right now, stay where it’s warm, and be safe.

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