Parents left work to try and get to their children around the same time that state offices and businesses closed. The roads were a disaster.
For me, I live in a neighborhood with hills on all sides. How was I to drive down there to get my kids from two different schools? When I lived in Massachusetts, the salt trucks and snow plows were out as soon as a snow storm started, but Alabama has no such resources.
After texting and calling for a couple of hours, my oldest daughter told me she was able to get a ride with a friend's grandmother who was at the school, but she was dropped at the bottom of one of the hills and had to walk the rest of the way home.
I met her with our dog, who was the only one enjoying the white stuff. I then met with one of my neighbors to figure out how we were going to get our girls from the intermediate school, a mere 6.2 miles away. Luckily, my neighbor received a call from a friend who had made it to the school and asked if we needed her to pick up our kids
We decided to try and venture out to meet this angel of a friend so she wouldn't have to keep our kids through the night!
Since my neighbor is from Colorado, she is able to drive in the snow, so we took my Honda Pilot out to the edge of our neighborhood to meet her friend. The main road outside our neighborhood was bumper to bumper and it took my neighbor's friend almost two hours to get the 6 miles from the school to meet us near her home.
We all made it home safe and sound, thanks to my friend's mad driving skills, up a snow-covered hill without four-wheel drive. Others were not so lucky.
My Facebook page started blowing up with stories of people being stranded trying to get home. Folks were abandoning their cars on highways, main roads and side streets. By the end of the night, some friends were writing that a drive usually taking 30 minutes turned into a nine-hour and 45-minute commute.
Some friends were in their cars for 12 hours trying to get home. I had another pregnant friend who had to spend the night in her car because traffic on the interstate was not moving.
Parents could not reach their children, so teachers stayed at schools and the stranded kids had a sleepover. Numerous businesses had employees spend the night at the office, my husband included. He works at a big law firm downtown, and about 30 of the employees went to a hotel across the street for dinner (and probably a few adult beverages) before heading back to the office for the night.
He slept on the floor of his office.
Hotel rooms were booked throughout the city. This morning, I spoke to desk clerks from two Hampton Inns on either side of Birmingham. Both of them said they were sold out with people walking in after abandoning their cars in shopping centers, gas stations and even in the middle of the road.
Both hotels said they had enough food for breakfast, but the snacks, juice and water available in their snack shops were running low. Terrance, one of the employees, told me he drove to work this morning on a sheet of ice while trying to avoid the abandoned cars along the way.
I know friends who had to leave their cars and sleep at churches, YMCAs, drug stores and grocery stores. Even the Greater Birmingham Humane Society kept its doors open for stranded travelers. People opened their homes to anyone stranded nearby.
I saw pictures of employees from a Home Depot in my town of Pelham stand in the middle of the road handing out coffee to those sitting in traffic. Southern hospitality is alive and well.
This morning, the roads are very icy, which is going to make it difficult for people to get home today. According to Governor Bentley's office, five people have been killed, more than four thousand kids are still stranded at schools across the state and many roads are closed today. Alabama Power reported this morning that more than 13,000 people were without power, but by 10 a.m., only 4,500 customers were still without service. My husband may be looking at another night in his office along with many others.
Schools are closed today and tomorrow. State offices and many businesses are closed today and possibly tomorrow.
Many cities across the state are tending to emergency calls first before helping those who have been stranded all night in their cars and taking them to warming stations. The city of Hoover is using school buses to help motorists get to shelters.
But this is Alabama and we are used to crazy weather such as tornados and hurricanes. When we first moved to the state, people talked to us about the blizzard in 1993 that shut the state down for four days. But at least they had notice of that storm; they knew it was coming. This one shocked everyone with how fast conditions deteriorated.
But this is Alabama and it will be in the 60s this weekend.