Prefatory note: Everything in this post is true. It may seem preposterous to my Yankee friends but I swear I’m not making any of this up.
On January 11, I got one of the wildest voicemails and texts I’ve ever seen.
It was from my kids’ school system. They were closing schools due to high winds potentially affecting bus travel. I would later find out the bus drivers essentially revolted after a school bus in Tennessee overturned from high wind gusts. Still, they’re closing school for wind.
This would not be the most ludicrous thing to happen to me in the past two weeks.
Local forecasts were calling for snow on the morning of the 15th. This wasn’t just a light dusting like my scruffy city usually gets. This was a legit winter storm warning.
Now for those Yankees who aren’t from around here, let me take a moment to explain a Southerner’s relationship with snow—specifically in East Tennessee.
We like snow. We get snow every year. We’re just never, and I mean NEVER, prepared for it. My scruffy city basically has two snow plows it uses after the fact when it snows every year to try and mitigate the damage done by any amount of snowfall.
This isn’t something most will understand unless you live in an area where you get regular snow and it’s handled accordingly: every single year there’s snow in my town and every single year we’re caught with our pants down because despite getting snow every single year the city and county refuse to pony up any more money to beef up what the road crews can do when snow hits.
As a result when the snow comes it basically shuts everything down. Schools are closed. Courts close. You’re lucky if the local grocery store still has eggs, bread and milk when what locals call “white death” comes calling.
January 15 comes and, surprise, surprise, school’s closed. Fortunately my wife and I prepared and had a sitter for the kids so we could go to work.
I had to drive about two hours away for work that day. When the snow started, I wasn’t really worried. For the last 12-15 years, the snow’s not been anything of significance and most of the chatter from local weather people and meteorologists usually amounts to a pretty significant amount of locals acting like Chicken Little.
The difference this time was the sky actually looked like it was falling as I came home.
As the kids and I tried to make it to our house, snow was building up in white, wet globs everywhere. The back roads near the house were already covered in a buildup of sludge created by the snow. It wasn’t bad if you went slowly and drove carefully.
Unfortunately, I had two hills to climb to make it to my house.
And my car wasn’t having it.
“Daddy, are we stuck?” My son asked me as I tried to gun my 4-wheel drive Nissan Rogue, spinning its tires halfway up the hill. Neighborhood boys came out to watch my attempts to make it up to my driveway. Several even got out shovels and tried to clear the road.
None of it worked.
“No, son,” I said, “we’re not stuck.” But we absolutely were marooned in the middle of the street in my subdivision with no way of getting in my driveway.
I put my car in park and went to the nearest neighbor’s house. He’s a nice guy named Steve. I thought I could back my car up enough and coast into his driveway so I knock and ask if I can park there for the night. Steve agreed, but asked if I could wait until he moved a car so his wife could use the driveway too.
After a bit of finagling and prayer, I got my Rogue into his driveway. It was the least in control I’ve ever felt driving a car but everything went okay. My kids and I walked the 350 feet back to our house where we planned to dig in for the night.
My wife didn’t make it even that far. Her car got about twenty feet up our hill before it refused to go any further. She walked about a half mile to make it home in the snow.
At least we all made it home safe.
When East Tennessee gets this kind of snow, it’s serious. We got a total of 7.5 inches at my house, which is more than we’d seen in a decade plus. And all of my Scruffy City was essentially in a frozen lockdown as a result.
The next morning we started shoveling out the driveway. No one else wanted to do this but my wife’s a reformed Yankee so she insisted we get started quickly. In fact she wanted me to start shoveling while the shit was coming down Monday night at 9 pm, but it was freezing cold and I have standards.
A neighbor who moved here last year from Utah came to help us both dig our cars out of the snow. He brought me 240 pounds of sand to put in the back of my car, helped me dig my Rogue out of Steve’s driveway and even helped shovel Steve’s driveway out in the process.
My neighbors are the best. Did I mention that? The guy across the street from me was nice enough to ferry me to the local Kroger in his Dually for provisions since we were going to be stuck in the house for a few days.
And stuck we were. Especially the kids. They were out a total of eight days due to the snow, which is the limit they can miss due to inclement weather during the year before Spring and Summer Breaks get cut.
Since you’re reading this (and I’m almost up to a thousand words talking about this) I’m happy to inform you the kids will most likely have been in school for two days as of this writing.
I say “most likely” as after the snow came 60 degree temperatures and rain.
Rain after a huge snowfall—which means we’re now eyeing the possibility of flooding conditions now.
Excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall so I don’t hear the automated phone call if they should dare to call school off again.
After all, I can only afford babysitters so many days, and MY KIDS NEED SCHOOL.
Ignorance is essentially bliss in these cases, right?
Anyway, we’ll see you next week!