Rare winter weather can become a milestone event

Published 9:01am Monday, February 3, 2014

What are we going to call this week’s snowstorm when we tell the kids and grandchildren about all the fun we had in the snowy days of late January 2014?

I’m partial to “The Blizzard of 2014,” just for the continuity with the big snowfall of my youth in 1993. That’s the last snow I recall that was deep enough to break out the kneeboards and trash can lids and shred whatever minor hill could be found in this mostly flat area.

Because this week we had that chance again. I saw a few boys attacking the slope behind the home dugout at the Elmore County High Panthers’ baseball field, and may or may not have taken a run at it myself.

I’m sure most young and young-at-heart residents have a similar snow-blanketed hill they discovered this week, a secret spot to play snowboarder — or to luge, bobsled or toboggan — like the Olympians we’ll be watching in a couple weeks time.

We Alabama folks just don’t get to do this very often. The streets stayed eerily quiet this week, a testament to advanced warnings from emergency managers and sensible decision-making by residents.

The icy roads shut things down across the county, and almost everyone seemed to take heed. Fleahop Road in Eclectic was so clear that the neighborhood kids and their parents stretched the snowy, icy fun late into Tuesday evening. They used kiddie pools and Rubbermaid lids to luge the icy hill near Eclectic Elementary.

But back to the naming thing. We so rarely experience significant snow that winter weather becomes a milestone event. Our memories of this week will likely be a lot happier than those of urbanites in Birmingham and Atlanta. The confusing models leading up to the storm had those north of us strangely unprepared for the storm, especially for usually bread-and-milk-crazed Alabamians.

Abandoned cars still litter the interstates and highways there, testaments to the explosive combination of snow, ice, a mountainous city and an abrupt, panicked rush hour. It wasn’t fun for most up there, especially those who spent hours in their cars, spent the night a their offices or spent days in school classrooms.

But there are heart-warming stories as well. I’ve read of doctors who walked miles to perform surgeries that simply couldn’t wait. Those stuck on Birmingham highways were, in many cases, aided by residents of nearby neighborhoods who lit out on ATVs to rescue or resupply the stranded. Chik-fil-A continued to build its devotion among Southerners by unloading a store to feed those stranded motorists around them, free of charge.

For a while this week, the south was the focus of the nation. Many northerners, I’d wager, were making fun of us for having such troubles with a comparatively light snowfall. But those are the same people who make fun of us for massive preparations for blizzards that never materialize. So who cares what they think?

I know that despite the chaos wreaked by this week’s storm, the death toll was limited and mostly attributable to driving against common sense. The deadly crash near Wetumpka was right at the beginning before the first flake had even fallen and I doubt anyone imagined the bridge would freeze that fast.

Through patience and cooperation, most of us weathered the storm with aplomb, even in those places that, as the Birmingham News’s John Archibald put it, “got caught with their snowpants down.”

What to call this? Who knows; those choices seem to happen organically, spontaneously. But one thing for sure. It was ab-snow-lutely memorable.


David Goodwin writes a weekly column for The Wetumpka Herald. Contact him at david.goodwin@alexcityoutlook.com.

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