Bama’s Bitter Blast started early for me. I was scheduled to start work at 1:30pm on Tuesday, but I was called in at 9:30am. Before I got ready, I looked out my window and saw green. Green and concrete. I was a little confused, but I do as I’m told. After I was done getting ready around 10:00am, I looked out again and saw my street was covered in white. I rushed out the door to get to work before the roads froze. When I walked in around 10:15, I was told to get ready to do live reports from outside the station. I was out and ready fifteen minutes before we hit the air, in a heavy coat, toboggan hat, and gloves. By the time they came to me, my shoulders and head were covered in snow. I did my live report and ran inside to get warm. As soon as I hit the door, my hands started stinging. It felt like bees made of fire were going crazy inside my fingers. Several of my co-workers jumped to my aid and were shocked at how cold my hands were, despite the burning sensation I had inside. Luckily, they warmed up in time for my next report. For the next four hours, I was popping in and out to give reports about how quickly the snow was falling on our little corner of Red Mountain.
After several other reporters and anchors were able to navigate their ways through the snow, Melissa Kim and I were asked to hit the streets to see what the traffic was looking like. We left at 3:30pm, but didn’t make it far. Our station is at the top of a very steep hill, and our jeep couldn’t make it down. We got stranded about three-quarters of the way the bottom. We were forced to grab all of our gear and hike back up to the top to get a new vehicle. That didn’t work much better. The roads were already so slick, that our rear wheel drive Jeep couldn’t get UP the hill this time. We had to be pulled to the top by a co-worker with a four-wheel drive truck. Then, we took a back way to get down to Valley Avenue. Navigating our way down was like trying to drive through an abandoned bumper car rink. Cars we strewn every which way, leaving tiny seems to fit through.
We drove for three hours, and only made it to the Mountain Brook Plaza on 280. We pulled inside to take shelter for the night, and turned a story on our 150+ new roommates. The Hampton Inn on 280 was more than gracious. Quite frankly, they were heroes. They took in well over their 127 room capacity, and didn’t turn anyone away. They provided all of the stranded with blankets and pillows as we laid claim to our little home on the diamond-patter carpet for the night. There was a grocery store about two miles away, so I walked there to get Melissa and me food. The walk took about thirty minutes because every patch of earth was covered in ice. All they had left was sushi, so I grabbed two for us and trudged back through the bitter cold. We had a live report for the 10pm news, and then tried to get what sleep we could before our next live report on Wake-Up Alabama.
The next day after our morning show report, I hiked down 280 to check out the Red Mountain Expressway. Several of the other stranded motorists had been asking about it, so I promised them I would find out. About three hundred feet into my journey I was eating my frozen words. However, the sun had started shining, so I was able to stay slightly warm. Once I got back, I edited the video on my laptop and sent it back to the station. Melissa and I decided to hit the road since the roads were in fair enough condition and we made it back to the station in about thirty minutes. Once we came in, we were told to get some sleep. I found solace in one of our sales director’s offices, and crashed. By the time I woke up, life was starting to return to some semblance of normalcy. Cars were stranded, but neighbors were helping neighbors, and unsung heroes were saving the day for countless Alabamians. This winter storm will forever be etched in my mind, not because of the havoc it caused, but rather because it brought out the best in the people that I am proud to call my neighbors.
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