Birmingham, AL: True Survivors

The last two days have been filled with peril, chaos and mayhem as citizens struggled to just drive home from work, school or doctors’ appointments. But, being southerners filled with true grit, we have survived and risen to incredible compassion for our fellow man. There are multiple stories of how neighbors are helping neighbors dig out from the most misrepresented winter storm that I can remember.

However, putting all blame of slow school officials, unexceptional weather reporting and insufficient decisions by employers aside, we Birminghamians have once again shown that we will not be beaten by snow, ice or stupidity.

My parents were stranded at UAB Kirklin Clinic after showing up for a previously scheduled doctor appointment. Little did they know they were really scheduled for a sleepover.

Stranded in a doctor's office during a snow storm.
Stranded in a doctor’s office during a snow storm.

My mom, in true mom-fashion, turned this into a social event and likely stayed up all night having deep conversations with other patients, nurses and hospital staff. She probably came home with the best recipes and she will likely be friends forever with every soul stranded like her. Daddy, on the other hand, made himself a pallet and was surely snoring as soon as his head hit the carpet. This nurse thought he had the best idea.

According to the weather services in the area, Birmingham was going to experience a “light dusting” of snow, while cities south of Birmingham, from Montgomery to Mobile were under a winter storm warning. Our “go-to” weather man in the Birmingham area, James Spann, had the following forecast.

*Snow will begin tomorrow morning over North Alabama, but it will be light. There is a good chance you will see snow in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Anniston, and Gadsden, but it should be light, and significant accumulation is not expected. No major travel issues are expected in these areas despite the snow.”

No major traffic issues?
No major traffic issues?

Don’t misunderstand me, James Spann is our “weather man.” He is rarely wrong during tornado season here in Alabama and most of the state tunes in to hear his forecast whenever the skies turn threatening. I guess snow is just harder to forecast in the south. In the spring, late fall and late winter our eyes turn upward and we watch for funnel clouds. After the clouds clear, we band together and re-build.

In the winter, we usually bundle up, wrap our outdoor pipes and throw another log on the fire about twice during the whole season. We’ve had about 3 major winter weather events that I can recall in my lifetime. An ice storm in 1982, the 1993 storm of the century and 2008 was what I would call a “light dusting.”

2008 Light Dusting of Snow in Birmingham, AL
2008 Light Dusting of Snow in Birmingham, AL

Frozen FountainPhoto Credit: Amy Burdette

During this “unnecessary freezing of water,” teachers cared for stranded children in schools, and a doctor walked 6 miles in the snow to perform a life or death brain surgery, (which he will get to talk about for years to come.) People shared their homes, phone chargers, 4 wheel drive vehicles and area businesses stayed open to house or feed those who were stranded.

Yes, Alabama has great football, beautiful beaches and some of the best chefs in the south, but more importantly; we have some of the best people in the nation. We have people helping people, each making the best of a very bad situation and ignoring headlines from other cities who like to make fun of the south every chance they get.

“Atlanta paralyzed by less than 3 inches of snow”

This headline from the Los Angeles Times, a city where these editors wouldn’t know a snowflake from a cornflake is quite insulting. Atlanta is our sister city and snow in the south happens about as often as you’d hear a left coaster ask a southerner to talk slower.

So, in true southern grit style, we’ll work hard, walk more miles in the snow than most in one day and show our strength in our ability to overcome. We will dig out of a ill-reported snow storm, ice on the streets and stupidity that runs much deeper than 3 inches in other parts of the country. We’ll survive. Just like we always do.,0,7911325.story#ixzz2rqym7oJ9

18 thoughts on “Birmingham, AL: True Survivors

  1. Good article! Doesn’t spann get his info from the weather channel/station/meteorologist in bham?? I really don’t think he has all of the models, technology, etc to accurately forecast the weather on his own at the tv station. I could be wrong… If anything I think he was given the wrong information from the ones that do have all of the tech but I agree that it maybe could have been seen at least a few hours before everyone was stranded. Right?

    1. Thanks, RF. I am a huge Spann fan, as I hope my post articulated. However, he is a meteorologist and while he gets his info from models and technology as you say, he is the leader in our area. Whatever technology or models were chosen to follow, they were wrong. Motorist were stranded, children separated from their parents, chaos followed on our streets. Let’s say the forecast had said, travel may be difficult… School officials would have made better decisions, etc. As I said in the post, snow must be harder to forecast in the south, so in this writer’s opinion, it needs more attention, better forecasting, perhaps different models or technology can be used next time. The governor knew well enough in advance to declare a state of emergency, why did the city of Birmingham ignore it? Let me add, there were so many mistakes made with this storm, there’s plenty of blame to go around. I used the Spann quote because I know it was the one most citizens listened to.

  2. It was not just James Spann. The meteorologists rely on different models which aid in forecasting the weather. All of the models were wrong. Everyone got it wrong to include the National Weather Service. Remember the NWS is a source of information our local weather guys rely on. Now, they have a huge burden to bear, in their mind’s eyes. By the way, we DID get a light dusting of snow. No one expected it to freeze just about instantaneously, an added touch by Mother Nature. It was not the snow that was the problem, it was the ice.

  3. I’m so proud to be a southerner! love everything about us. From our big hearts to sweet tea! I love saying y’all the way only a true Southerner can say it, because it can’t be duplicated without sounding totally fake to the true southern ear. For the most part, we’re good people, salt of the earth kind of people. But in true southern fashion, I would never claim that there are not good people everywhere! Bless their hearts!! We just happen to live in the best place♥

  4. Wonderful article. I told someone that it just proves who is in charge and it is not us. Man thought we would have a dusting but God had other plans. It was rough but all the acts of kindness, love, new friendships and realizing that we are capable of doing more than we could imagine. At Kirkland Clinic we saw a beautiful side to our nurses, doctors and all other staff that was helping care for approximately 150 people. They went above and beyond and showed us what a dedicated team can do when push comes to shove. I am grateful and thank all the heroes of this winter storm. I can’t help but believe that God smiled when He saw those doing unto others as they would have them do unto them.

  5. Glad all is finally returning to normal. That’s wild about James Spann’s forecast. I wonder what happened there? I guess man and his technology isn’t in control of everything after all!

  6. Great article Kim!! The acts of kindness that I received, witnessed and read about has truly made my heart so full and I praise God from whom all blessings flow and I praise him for making me a southern girl as well!!

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