Residents return home after winter storm

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chilton County residents Nicki Melton and Alisa Lynn were among countless people that had trouble getting home because of Tuesday’s winter storm.

Melton, of Clanton, and her mother work at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama on Riverchase Parkway in Birmingham and were forced to stay at their office overnight Tuesday.

After weather forecasts indicated worsening conditions, Melton said people started leaving her office at 10 a.m. Tuesday to go home.

“There was a traffic jam just trying to pull out of our parking deck,” Nicki Melton said. “We kind of work on a hill, so nobody could get out or in. People were leaving their cars and walking back to work. We didn’t try to leave yesterday because we knew we couldn’t get out.”

Melton said her office’s dining center provided dinner Tuesday night and breakfast Wednesday morning for everyone that had to stay overnight.

“I would say 75 percent of Blue Cross was still at work,” Melton said. “I might have slept for like three hours. Sleeping on the floor is not fun.”

Melton said she was glad she was with her mother and she didn’t have to worry about anything at home.

“Luckily, I knew my brother would take care of the dog, so she was fine,” she said. “I was thankful it was just the two of us stranded.”

After another BCBS employee from Chilton County left the office Wednesday morning to drive home, Melton said she and her mother decided to follow the same route.

They left at 9:02 a.m., traveled down Highway 31 and got on Interstate 65 in Alabaster.

“We were fine until Jemison,” Melton said. “It got a little icy in Jemison. When we hit Clanton, it was a little bit worse.”

They got off at Exit 212, parked at Bell Lane Baptist Church on Lay Dam Road and started walking toward their house when a police car pulled up and the officer asked if they wanted a ride.

A few minutes later, they were home.

Melton rang in her 25th birthday Wednesday by resting after being awake for more than 24 of the 30 hours she was gone.

“I’ve said all along it could have been worse,” Melton said. “We could have not had food, we could not have had heat, we could have been outside … so we were some of the lucky ones.”

Lynn, 35 of Verbena, also works at BCBS on Riverchase Parkway and would have had to spend Tuesday night there if her husband’s uncle hadn’t picked her up on his way to pick up his daughter from Riverchase Galleria.

“He was in a four-wheel drive truck and he is also a firefighter, so I trusted him a little more to get me home,” Lynn said. “Our case was definitely best-case scenario.”

After a two-hour drive, Lynn said she stayed at her husband’s uncle’s house in Alabaster on Tuesday night.

“Other than that, mine wasn’t near as big an event as what we saw,” Lynn said. “We saw a lot of people who were much less fortunate. I was very blessed.”

Lynn estimated about 1,300 people spent the night in her office building.

“My husband had actually already made it home with our kids, so they were fine,” Lynn said. “I was just the only one trying to find somewhere to go. I did try to find a hotel earlier in the day, but everything was booked. I didn’t realize how bad the conditions were until I had left.”