Wow, what a weekend! In a span of 48 hours, we have temperatures in the 70s and we’re ducking and dodging tornadoes, then all of a sudden we’re slipping and sliding on snow and ice. Hmm, this must be the South! What’s the old adage, if you don’t like the weather, stick around awhile, it’ll change?
Saturday morning, I awake with wind and rain and that old, ominous feeling we get here in the South when dark skies prevail — is this the day? Are we going to have a tornado? Is this the day our luck runs out? I turn on the ubiquitous Weather Channel knowing full well they rarely get it right for our area. Heck, most of the time they don’t even know Columbus exists — “Atlanta, blah, blah, blah…” They try their best to make this an Atlanta event, but this one is ours, like it or not.
My wife Bernadette and I are watching TV and suddenly familiar names in east Alabama begin popping up and the talk turns to tornadoes. Then we turn to one of the local channels to see how Columbus is fairing. We hear that a possible tornado has touched down in Salem. She comments that it’s strange our alarm system hasn’t gone off. We continue to watch the skies and the TV, and once again our area is spared, unlike our brethren to the west. About 10:15 a.m., we hear the mechanical, almost decipherable electronic voice, seemingly from on high, announcing that the “warning” has expired. Funny, we’d never heard that one had ensued.
Sunday, we’re awakened by my sister in-law, Rebecca, who lives in Ellerslie, proclaiming, “It’s snowing!” I look out the window and, well, it’s sort of rainy, sleety. I’m thinking OK, it’s going to go to our north, as it almost always does, another missed storm event. So, I get our coffee mugs and strike out for Dunkin Donuts, our usual Sunday morning fare. I haven’t driven in snow since spending the winter of ’81 in Montana, but I think, how bad can it be? By the time I hit the road it’s snowing pretty hard, but I’m still pretty confident. I drive down the Warm Springs Connector and merge onto Manchester Expressway — OK, merge is a little strong; the road is virtually deserted. By this time the snow is horizontal, blowing all around. It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced the tunnel vision that comes with driving in a blowing snow.
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I get to Dunkin Donuts thinking surely there will be no crowds with this weather — I can zip in and out before the roads are covered with snow. But the place is packed and everyone in line is stocking up like this is the blizzard of the century! I wait and wait. Granted, there’s almost always a wait at Dunkin Donuts on Sunday morning, but this line’s not moving. I’m watching the “blizzard” outside and getting just a tad nervous. But I think that’s projected on me by one of the girls behind the counter pacing and wondering when her boss will let them go home. “I’ve never driven in snow,” she says. “I’m from Florida!”
Finally, I get my coffee and donuts and head for the door. In those 15 minutes my car has become draped in a blanket of snow. I head home hoping for the best. By the time I pass the Chevrolet place — you know, the one with the bad jingle — the roads are getting pretty covered and there’s not enough traffic to keep them clear. The snow’s piling up and I can see every move every vehicle has made for the past five minutes just from the tracks on the road.
I keep a steady speed and nerve. When I turn back onto the Warm Springs Connector the roads look like someone has poured a giant Slushee on them. I take a deep breath and slosh on through. Now I’m a pretty cool guy — it takes a little to rattle my cage — but for some reason by the time I get home I’m a bit stressed. After all, it’s been 28 years since I last drove in snow. I turn into my driveway and the car breaks loose for the first time. I overshoot and almost hit my neighbor’s fence. I back up and ease into the driveway. My wife meets me at the door with that look of “Why did it take you so long? I was so worried!”
Later, family and friends go out into the field behind our house and build a snowman and have snowball fights. Lily, our new little pug/chihuahua mix, takes her first plunge into snow. Clad in her sweater, she bounds about, sinking to her belly with every jump. She lasts maybe 15 minutes before nearly vibrating out of her sweater with the shakes.
All in all, it’s a good day. Columbus has her big snow of the year — the one so many children and adults have been asking for. It’s that magical time here in the South when we all have to stop and be still and quiet, reconnecting with ourselves and nature — unless you have a nasty Dunkin Donut coffee habit. That was some of the best coffee I’ve had in years.