Technology can do wonders in the hands of those willing to do good. So wondrous we can easily mistake the workings of technology as miracles. Yet, as if to remind us He is still watching us, God has a few surprises up His sleeve. We have been reminded of this in the Deep South the last two days.
All the models, radars, weather tracking instruments and meteorologists minds drew their snow zones across Southern states. For Alabama predictions of 1-2 inches in Mobile to a light dusting no accumulation in Birmingham was the planning guide. We had faith in modern science and technology. So much so that we doubted our own eyes and reasoning skills and got caught unprepared and didn’t believe it.
Tuesday, January 28, as on every normal day children went to school, parents went to work and daily routines went into action. We were busy being busy, rushing through our lives and rarely pausing but…
…the dusting, no accumulation in Birmingham and surrounding areas turned into ice followed by 1/2 to 1 inches of snow and we had to pause. We rarely get this type of weather and our budget won’t support keeping needed equipment and things on hand to keep roads clear. This also means we get little opportunity to practice driving in such conditions so we may not all be the best at it.
County roads closed within an hour of the first flake of ice/snow mix. Schools dismissed and as in Blount County, some school systems school buses couldn’t run to take children home. Some schools ended up hosting 1 and 2 night sleepovers because parents were stranded.
Those on the interstates found hour commutes taking 6 to 8 hours to drive. Others on these same interstates soon found themselves gridlocked as the roads became impassable due to the winter blast as well as multiple vehicle accidents. These people either abandoned their vehicles and walked, some for hours home or to some shelter. Some people never made it out of their offices and then some who did ended up returning as getting home was impossible.
Large warming stations were opened up and every homeless shelter was at maximum occupancy. First responders risked vehicles and life to reach those in need of ambulances, paramedics, police officers and firefighters.
Every day Jane’s and Joe’s of every race, gender and occupation set aside that which makes us unique and worked together unselfishly for others good. Those walking home along one neighborhood street found a handwritten sign offering hot coffee on the porch of a home.
Strangers helped push vehicles off ice patches or out of ditches. A woman in Trussville took 104 stranded people home, stopping only when her vehicle had less than a miles worth of gas left. Then she watched as others with trucks and off-road vehicles continued to transport people and cried because she’d done so little.
Stranded motorists having to camp out in their vehicles on at least one stretch of I65 North were aided by two young men hiking to a store and taking orders for things people needed.
People who could manage to get to those stranded passed out sodas and water.
Amazed, freezing, stranded motorists on 280 found Chik-fil-a staff walking car to car handing out 500 free chicken sandwiches and water. Later some of these same people slept in the dining area in warmth and reasonable comfort. The next morning they were again fed, for free.
Hotels allowed people to sleep in the lobbies when all their rooms were taken. Restaurants sent over hot meals to office buildings were stranded employees were waiting it out, without being asked.
Employers took employees home whose cars couldn’t make it. Still others picked up emergency and first responders who were legally bound to come in if called or it was their shift.
Schoolteachers and principals camped out with their students at school, cooking, caring for and entertaining dozens of children and other stranded motorists. Those who made it home safely went to the rescue of others as soon as ALDOT allowed.
One neurosurgeon walked 6 miles over ice and snow with the snow still coming down from one hospital to another to perform emergency brain surgery so one patient could live. Patients and caregivers stranded at doctor’s offices found the doctors walking to hospitals for blankets, food, tee-shirts and needed medication. One cardiologist even followed one group of patient and caregivers home from Jefferson County to Blount County to be sure they made it home alright.
Examples go on and on and on of stranger helping stranger, social and economic lines erased as people just acted kind. One by one our prayer list for stranded family and friends dwindled from 15 to 1 and that 1 will be home today.
All in all, when Jesus said, what you have done for the least of these you have done for me, I believe these acts hit the mark. He had to smile as we extended food, drink, shelter, gas,muscle and vehicle power and caring during this surprise storm.
God gave us a quite the surprise. Some will rant and rave at Him and everyone they can think to blame. But as cynicism is one of my worst sins I am choosing to see the good in this for there is much good to see.
When has God surprised you?
Grateful in Alabama,
All photos from ABC 33/40.