Eric (Product Development)
I sat at my desk, watching the snow begin to accumulate in the parking lot. I know it was coming… the call from my daughter’s school informing me that they would be closing early and I would need to pick her up. It came at 10:51 AM. The school was closing at 11:30. It took me 9 minutes to shut down and pack up. By 11:00 I was gone. I had 30 minutes to get to Prince of Peace (POP) Catholic Church… a drive that normally took 15 minutes. Columbiana Road was not an option. The grade leading up to Shades Crest would be too steep. I-65 was already gridlocked. Normally, I would take West Oxmoor to Shades Crest Road, but that is steeper than Columbiana. I opted to take the long route…. Shannon-Oxmoor, through Ross Bridge to Highway 150. From there, I hoped I could get to the school.
I spent the next hour and 15 minutes crawling down Lakeshore. The hill leading up to the intersection with the Interstate was iced over, as was the overpass. I saw several folks slide down the hill, and several of them ended up read-ending the car in front of them. Once I got past I-65, things opened up a bit. As expected, West Oxmoor was bumper to bumper, so I stuck to my original plan and headed for Ross Bridge. Other than a 45 minute delay in which I and several other folks had to get out and push a few cars over a small hill, the roads were slick, but free from traffic. All was going well until just after I passed the entrance to Ross Bridge. There is a good sized hill there, and there were lots of problems. Coming from the north, I was at the top of the hill so I had gravity on my side. The folks headed in the other direction weren’t so lucky. Fortunately for them, there were a couple of guys with 4X4’s and ropes who were pulling cars up the hill. Unfortunately for me, that meant that the road was basically a 1 way street. One car at a time could head down the hill. After an hour or so in line, I finally made it down. I continued on until I reached the intersection with 150. That’s when my heart sank. There were cars piled up on the hill headed up to Shades Crest, and a 18-wheeler thrown in for good measure. There was a man directing traffic at the bottom of the hill, so I asked him what was going on. Basically, he said, the road was closed. There were police at the top of the hill stopping folks from coming down. My only option, he said, was to take 150 in the other direction, towards Bessemer, and catch Morgan Road to I-459. This didn’t seem like a great option, but it was my only option.
There was very little traffic as I headed west on 150. East-bound it was a different story. It was completely backed up, and it wasn’t moving. I only had to stop a few times when an impatient east-bound driver thought that it would be a good idea to pull out of the line of traffic and head east in the west-bound lane. (NOTE: This is NEVER a good idea.) I went along for a couple of miles before I encountered any major problems. A decent incline was giving folks some problems. I waited for my turn, gave the car ahead of plenty of room, then headed up. I was doing fine… until the car in front of me lost traction and hit the brakes. That meant, of course, that I had to hit the brakes. We were now both stuck. It was now about 3:00. Thankfully, there were a few good Samaritans nearby, and they were able to push us both over the hill. The view from the top was discouraging to say the least. More traffic, all at a standstill. Cars turned at awkward angles… folks standing around. It was at this point that I realized that I was not going to make it to school in the car. I found a spot where I could safely pull off the road, grabbed my laptop and a blanket, and started hiking.
5.1 miles, and 2 hours later, I made it to POP. I was not alone. Lots of students were still there… their parents unable to pick them up. Like me, several parents had attempted the trip only to eventually get stuck and have to walk to the school. My daughter was surprised to see me, and even more surprised to learn that I had walked to school and that we would be spending the night. POP was kind enough to provide spaghetti dinner for everyone who was stuck at the church. Several hours and a couple of Pixar movies later, I finally fell asleep on the floor of the library. The next morning, after a delicious pancake breakfast, I scrambled to find a ride home. Some friends that lived nearby invited my daughter and I over, and I was in the process of getting ready to head out when Jason B, whom I had been in regular contact with, asked if I had reached out to Matt C. Matt also lived nearby and is the owner of a very nice 4X4 Jeep. One brief phone call later and I had found a ride home. Matt picked my daughter and me up and carefully navigated the still-icy roads home.
Needless to say I was very grateful to be back home. The next day, my whole family packed into the minivan to go retrieve my car from the side of Highway 150. I was surprised to find that it was the last car there. All the other vehicles, excluding the ones that had been damaged, had already been retrieved. There was still some ice on the roads, especially in the shady spots, but the temperature was in the mid 40’s. That, combined with some salt and sand, cleared most of the roads up.
Lesson learned… I will never again roll my eyes and laugh when school is canceled because James Spann says the word ‘snow’.