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December 26, 2014

Winter storm brings out the best in us

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Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 7:17 pm

With the clearing of our roads and highways, and most of the snow and ice melting away, life is returning to normal across central Alabama. The Winter Storm of 2014 will become part of our shared experience alongside the tornado outbreak of 2011 and, for most of us, the Blizzard of ’93.

The Weather Channel started assigning names to winter storms last year — this one was Leon. But for those among us who spent the night in a warming shelter or on one of the highways that turned into parking lots, the term Snowpocalypse might be the name recalled in years to come.

Tales are still emerging of good Samaritans reaching out to help others, with a tremendous outpouring of goodwill and a desire to help others being something heard over and over again.

We’ve heard of local governments using buses to pick up stranded motorists to shelters to have a warm place to spend the night. A number of schools became overnight homes to students and staff who couldn’t get home. Drivers with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles drove co-workers, and total strangers, where they needed to go. We learned of volunteers in Sylacauga with four-wheelers and Jeeps who relayed stranded motorists over the hill at Herd’s Gap to meet friends or relatives on the other side. Law enforcement officers and other first responders stayed on the job, going the extra miles to help people get through the storm as safely as they could. A number of churches opened their facilities to stranded motorists, offering comfort and meals to those in need. Electric service providers did everything they could to keep the lights on and restore power to customers left in the dark — and thankfully, that didn’t happen to many people in our area.

This winter storm was a genuine emergency that brought out the best in the human spirit and the kind of compassion that too often lies beneath the surface of our humdrum lives.

The snow and ice didn’t come without warning. Weather forecasters gave accurate forecasts about what to expect from this weather event, how cold it would get, and how long it would last. Forecasts were detailed enough that Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency before it happened, and did his best to coordinate a response by state agencies. But as good as the forecasts were, and as good as the state’s plans were, Mother Nature made a mockery of human wisdom. The storm reached 100 miles farther north than expected, and came in faster than we could respond.

Images of monstrous traffic problems brought good-natured jabs at the South from our northern neighbors, and they were quickly reminded that winter storms in the South are about as rare as college football championships in the North. A spirit of good humor helped us deal with the frustrations of the situation.

Moving forward, we’ll be less likely to roll our eyes when we hear that schools will close because of the possibility of a dusting of snow; we’ll be more likely to keep an eye on weather forecasts and follow the advice to keep gas in our cars and emergency supplies on hand; and we’ll be more likely to view those we meet as someone who might need a helping hand, or someone who would extend one in our time of need. At least for a while.

That’s the silver lining we can take away from this winter storm. It helps us take stock of who we are and what we can do to take care of ourselves and to help others.

It just may be that Mother Nature wanted to remind us of that.

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