Winter weather lessons learned

Published 10:37 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I’m a little leery of the chances of snow accumulating on the ground Thursday.

Last time we had snowfall, which was March 1, my day was more frightful that delightful.

At the time, I was living in Columbiana and working for the Shelby County Reporter. My morning went fine — I was out and about taking pictures of people enjoying the snow. I got shots of snowball fights and people making snowmen and snow angels, all the things people do in the South when rare winter weather does strike.

Later that morning, I decided to go to Montevallo, where my girlfriend was in her last year at the University.

I also attended UM, and lived there for the first couple of years I worked in Columbiana. It’s only about 18 miles between the two cities, on roads I know well, having driven them at least daily for two years. No problem, right?

As I neared Calera on Highway 70, I saw a truck almost on its side several feet off the road, stuck and apparently abandoned after its driver tore up much of an embankment trying to get back on the road.

Well, it was off in the ditch for a reason — one that I would soon find out. As I inched closer I reached for my camera bag, to snap a quick photo of the scene, and next thing I knew I was drifting slowly, slowly off the road too.

In what couldn’t have been more than two or three seconds, I slide in slo-mo into the ditch too.

I still don’t know what happened —if the road had an icy spot or, more likely, my right wheels left the shoulder, when I slowed down to snap a photo — but I’m stuck regardless.

I try to go forward or backward, but my truck’s not moving so I get out to investigate and decided the only way I’m getting back on the road is to wait for spring or someone is going to have to pull me out.

Going back to the truck, I’m thinking who can I call to get me out. My girlfriend won’t have a chain or car enough to do it, my brothers and dad live at least two hours away … I finally decide one of my coworkers, Chris, lived closest and would probably be my best option.

I go back to the truck, which is still running, to get my cell phone, and then I realize my bad day was about to get even worse.

“This would only happen to me, nobody else,” I’m muttering with maybe a few other choice words.

My keys are in the ignition of my truck, and my door has closed behind me. I’m standing in icy slush up to my ankles, mud up to my knees, snow blowing all around me, on the side on the road, locked out of my running truck, looking at my cell phone on the dashboard.

About 10 minutes pass, I’m starting to remember tips from Man vs. Wild in case I have to go into survival mode (or at least scavenge for objects to break a window with), and somebody finally comes up over the hill. They roll down the window. No words really had to be exchanged because it was pretty obvious what had happened, and they offer to call the police.

Calera officers did arrive, and I will say, it didn’t take as long as I thought it would and they offered me a lot of help. After rushing to me to make sure I was OK — I think they assumed there had been some kind of accident — I sat in a patrol car and waited on a tower to come pull my truck out and open the door.

My lesson didn’t come cheap — $120 that I had no choice but to pay, but I will remember it from now on.

If I don’t have to get out in snow, I won’t. If I do, I’ll keep my spare key and my phone on my person.

If it does snow, everyone enjoy the winter weather. Have fun but be careful and remember to check on the elderly, those with children, pets and plants.