I started the morning like everyone else in our area looking at the snow and thinking nothing of it. By 10 a.m. I was running around grabbing things I might need for an overnight stay. I was still thinking “just in case.” Then the phone started ringing. Questions swirled:
What would I drive? What route would I take? Then a text from a co-worker: how was I getting in and could I pick him up? As I got dressed and assessed my driving options, I quickly opted to take the one four-wheel drive vehicle I had access to. It hadn’t dawned on me that I had never personally used the four-wheel-drive.
As I fielded additional calls from the office I headed in the direction of my coworker who was at the intersection of Highway 31 and Columbiana Dr. For all my rushing, I was going nowhere. Traffic was sitting still on Highway 31, and what normally would have taken five minutes, took forever, or about 45 minutes. Here’s where I appreciated knowing some shortcuts through my neighborhood. I cut across a back street to get to Columbiana and had my colleague meet me at that corner.
When he got in we debated the route: Columbiana, Highway 31 or Interstate 65? We could visibly see all were like parking lots. 31 North had a little movement so we proceeded in that direction only to creep for another half hour. Shortcut to the rescue! I took a back road through the shopping center and behind another business strip that put us a little further north on Highway 31 at a cross street.
My coworker found another street that ran parallel to Columbiana that may have helped us avoid stand still traffic. It did, but it was the steepest hill I have driven in 16 years in Birmingham. I chuckle because I’ve been on Jacobs Road before, but it never looked as steep as it did Tuesday morning and early afternoon.
That’s when I figured I’d better ask my son, who is away in college, how to use the four-wheel drive? He’s trying to talk me through it. My coworker is quietly freaking out that I’m on the cell phone (headsets in use) driving on this snow-covered and slick incline. We saw many stranded vehicles along our journey over Shades Mountain.
It only got worse as we headed down the mountain. I drove about two miles per hour following a line of five vehicles to get to the bottom. When we got to Lakeshore Drive, Green Springs and the grocery store, I gave a very audible shout of praise. We were almost at the office after three hours. It normally takes me 12 minutes to get to work from my home. At this point I’m well aware once I get to the newsroom I probably won’t be leaving for a couple of days. We grabbed fruit, snacks, peanut butter, bread and the last rotisserie chicken and started on the last leg of our journey.
I say the instructions for getting the truck into four-wheel drive “put gear shift in neutral, shift the little gear forward, shift gear to drive.” Then we’re off and headed up one additional steep hill to CBS 42 atop Red Mountain. I can’t count the number of abandoned and stranded vehicles we encounter on this leg of the trip.
While I did wish I could help, I had neither equipment nor knowledge to get someone out of a rut. Knowing that we were on a mission and seemingly found favor I drove the truck all the way to the station parking lot where it stayed until Wednesday night.
The rest of our wall to wall non-stop coverage is now a memory, a fond one believe it or not. I was encouraged by the stories our team uncovered of people helping people. Even though that was the longest two days I’ve worked in a long time, it was wonderful making new memories with all of the viewers and our team at CBS 42.
2014 WIAT-TV CBS42