Friday, January 31, 2014
I was at the rec center in Hoover when I got the call from my wife that the roads were starting to get bad. I had dropped Ruby off and Sailor was at the care center and could see the snow out the window. At this point the traffic outside was still moving fine. olivia called again and said her schools were shutting down and I needed to go get Ruby. I dashed out and quickly realized it was way worse than I could have expected.
We decided the best course of action was for me to head home and for her to get Ruby, try and make it to the house and if she could not she could fall back to my mother's place. Those plans were best case scenarios. After a couple hours in traffic she was stranded on 31 just a couple miles away from the interstate. Mom ended up with Ruby and a friend from school. Sailor and I had a jump on the situation but in the end, it didn't matter.
With road conditions rapidly deteriorating, the most direct route given our location was blocked with cars that could not climb what was essentially a gradual rise up a hill. This would be the first in a large series of pileups I would see over the next several hours. Doubling back we tried 6 additional routes home and all were blocked. This included a daring attempt up a steep climb that resulted in narrowly avoiding getting stuck by anchoring my rear tires on a curb and purposely spinning the fronts to right the vehicle and begin the descent post failure.
Sailor was a champ throughout the entire ordeal. During the first half hour she slept quietly but after that she was wide eyed at the snow and asking tons of questions about what was going on. She never complained about being cold or hungry (thanks to the supply of bank suckers I keep in the center console) and was great company. The only time she seemed scared or concerned despite my increasing stress was during our backwards slide after the failed uphill climb.
We made it back to 31 and began a slow crawl in an attempt to reach my mother's condo. With the roadways clogged and no progress being made I stopped for food and to get us a little break from the confines of our SUV. There was quite a line inside but we ended up with a hot meal and a nice break. Back outside 45 minutes later, it was plain to see as the traffic crawled and the sun started to fall that I would not make my intended destination.
I phoned a friend nearby and we found a place to stay the night. Thankfully I was able to navigate to their place, passing a handful of cars who had not been so lucky. Again, my hosts deserve a huge thanks for the hospitality and thanks for all the people they sheltered that night. My main contribution was a cobbled together country fried steak chili, so good I might even make it on purpose sometime.
My friend was kind enough to take us home the next day in his Jeep. He literally had purchased it in the week prior. In just under an hour we managed to make it 6 miles. I could tell he was pleased when we crested a hill and there were no cars at the top. Smart purchase, that Jeep. I found our dog and cat out of water but no accidents. Chopper is always happy to see us but he was extra excited this time but did whimper a bit that only half of us were accounted for. The above picture is Sailor napping on the couch after we got home. I almost couldn't believe we really made it and walking in the door has never felt so good.
Throughout everything that happened, we were sure to count our blessings. There were many, many people who were not as fortunate as us. While our leadership and meteorologists failed, our strength as family, friends, and community shined. To everyone who helped us, we are forever in your debt and to those who helped others, thank you as well. This is certainly an experience that will stick with us for quite some time.