Remembering the Storm of the Century
by Deirdre Long
dlong@annistonstar.com
Mar 17, 2013 | 4709 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
slideshow
It turns out that snow isn’t the only thing we remember about the Blizzard of ’93, the record-breaking storm that dumped more than a foot of snow across Alabama — and 25 other states — 20 years ago on March 13.

When The Star reached out to the community to share its memories of the blizzard, the snow was the cause of the memories but not always what was remembered.

“I’ll never forget it,” wrote Brianne Hendrick, who now lives in New Jersey, but lived in Oxford in March 1993. “Our house was big and never lost power, so it was full of friends who came to stay with us.”

“My fondest memory is of the residents shoveling the road, while someone with a bulldozer made it his business to help clear the roadway,” wrote Susan Weaver, who experienced the blizzard at her home in Anniston. “There was at least one emergency situation while we were seemingly, hopelessly stranded. Our neighbor, who had courage and a jeep, took at least five families to safety, whether it was the hospital or, in our case, to some gracious friend’s home. The situation was made known because a radio station was taking calls that allowed information to be spread around the community. The family that took us in, warmed us, body and soul, with hot coffee and hot chocolate.”


View a slideshow of photos from the Blizzard of '93



“At the age of 26, I can still remember the sound of that chugging, and the coziness I felt being in the lap of my Pawpaw, knowing that we would all be safe once we reached his house,” wrote Leesa Hughes, a Weaver resident who lived in Wellington as a child. “Now, the tractor has been sold, and my pawpaw has passed away, and all I have left are those memories that I will cherish forever. The blizzard wasn’t all about snow, ice and snowmen. To me, the blizzard was about family, and that is the best memory I could ever have.”

Inside these pages are more memories — photos, anecdotes and even a 20-year-old snowball. You can see a slideshow of even more photos, and share your memories, at www.annistonstar.com/blizzard93.

Reliving the blizzard

My husband is a general contractor so he knew how to take care of all the stuff that everyone else seemed to be having so much trouble with, for example indoor plumbing. We had filled the tub with water before it hit so we were prepared. We had food, candles, warmth and for five days we didn’t have to work, answer the phone, watch the news, or be anywhere. It was heaven! We had such busy lives and it was just refreshing to be with each other, play board games, sing, drink hot chocolate and visit without having to rush to another appointment. I am serious, we loved our surprise March vacation of 1993.

— Marilyn Lipscomb Clark, DeArmanville

• • •


Just three years out of college, single and working in Birmingham, a buddy of mine and I had for months been planning a backpacking and rafting trip to the Chattooga River in northeast Georgia. Using our fairly recent college degrees and newly earned mature decision-processing skills, we departed for Clayton, Ga., on Friday evening, despite the weather warnings for the weekend. Needless to say, we were trapped in the aptly named “A Small Motel” in Clayton for 36 hours.

Since this was a backpacking trip, we had our stoves and camp food, so we ate well — cooking on our camp stoves just outside the motel room. We used the foot of snow outside to keep our beverages cold. The motel kicked us out on Sunday morning due to “previously made reservations,” so we hit the road back home — me to Birmingham, my buddy to Mobile. The travel was fairly normal with clear roads until I hit Atlanta. It took me nine hours to get from Atlanta to Birmingham — a literal war zone with overturned 18-wheelers, crashed and abandoned cars, and people walking around the interstate, as the one-lane caravan of vehicles was at a standstill much of the time.

As I slowly passed through the Anniston I-20 exits around dark, I was low on gas and the setting sun was causing the roadway to again become a sheet of ice. I searched my mind for someone that I might know in Anniston to pull off and invite myself into their home.

Little did I know that my job would relocate me to Anniston the following year.

— Mike Poe, Jacksonville

• • •


A blessing from the Blizzard of ’93 is that it made us more thankful for the things we take for granted: running water, electricity, ability to go anywhere at anytime, access to food and drinks when we’re hungry or thirsty and ambulances to cover our emergencies.

— Josephine Heath Smith, Ohatchee

• • •


My granddaughter came so we played outside as much as we could stand. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years until I look at our pictures and realize the 4-year-old with her snow friend is now 24!

— Patsy Body, Oxford

• • •


Our family had everything but cable, we felt very lucky. Our good friends Joanne and Tommy lived only two blocks from us. They lost their power, so they walked through the snow to our house with their three children and an extra child that was spending the week with them. Even though it was a short hike, it took them over two hours. Each morning they left with backpacks back to their home to empty more from their freezer and refrigerator.

We would also hike up to the Municipal Golf Course in the afternoons to sled and play in the snow. The fun thing we all enjoyed was listening to phone conversations through a radio scanner. We learned a lot during those days of the Blizzard of ‘93 — too much information!

— Ellen and Phillip Bass, Anniston

• • •


“I knew this was the big one, we hoped would never happen,” Johnson wrote. Not only was their family stuck in their home on New Liberty Road, about eight miles north of Jacksonville, but the storm had downed trees on the main road, rendering it completely inaccessible.

Her sons Van and Greg went door to door, looking for someone with a four-wheel-drive truck and a chainsaw.

“Neighbors cut a path down the middle of the road for a vehicle to scrape through,” Lenora remembered. “Other neighbors attempted to reach Prentiss. Several vehicles slipped into the ditch before Donny Grantham made it to our house in his Blazer.”

The Blazer almost made it to the main road, still 7 miles away from the nearest hospital in Jacksonville, before getting stuck in a snow bank. After fruitless attempts to dig out the SUV by hand, Prentiss noticed an old Caterpillar tractor in the yard of James Westbrook.

“When Greg asked him to crank the tractor and pull us from the snow bank into the ruts on Roy Webb Road, Mr. Westbrook said, ‘Son, this is an old tractor ... and I don’t think it will crank, but I will try,’” Lenora wrote. “The first time Mr. Westbrook turned the key, the old tractor roared to life. I bowed my head and said ‘Lord, this is your night.’”

Prentiss eventually made it to Jacksonville Hospital, but the doctor didn’t have any of the clot-busting drug that would save his life. Ambulances and helicopters were out of the question, so Prentiss was brought to RMC in Anniston on a Humvee by the National Guard.

After a short stint at RMC, Prentiss was moved to UAB Medical Center in Birmingham, where he underwent five emergency bypass surgeries.

“Prentiss’ doctors told him that he will never come as close to dying and not make it,” Lenora wrote. “The Johnson family will forever owe a debt of gratitude to every person who put forth an effort on Saturday night into Sunday morning, doing everything in their power to give Prentiss an opportunity to reach help in time.

“Prentiss died March 5, 2013, two days after I submitted his story. We are so very thankful to have been given 20 more years with this wonderful man.”

— Deirdre Long

• • •


My husband and I were stranded in a large home with four children ages 1, 2, 3 and 5 during the blizzard of ’93 — it could have gotten as creepy as “The Shining,” however we decided to get creative. We cordoned off the den with blankets pinned together and managed to keep everyone warm and entertained for three long days. With no phone, power or gas, the fireplace quickly became our best friend. We huddled around it, slept by it, and cooked every meal over it using an old iron skillet. The meals were surprisingly great.

We watched out the big den windows as the snow blanketed down, while four wheelers zoomed up and down the road along with a few homemade sleds. Never having painted before, I gathered some pencils and craft paints and began painting a picture of the bird feeder on our deck that had attracted the most beautiful birds that we had ever seen. I never dreamed that my children, now in their 20s, would be furious to find that I had put the painting in a storage room downstairs for the last few years and just recently brought it out. I guess it is one of those things they will fight over one day, being the only picture I have ever painted!

It’s funny how memories are made and creativity comes out when you are snowed in for a rare Southern blizzard.

— Pam Hughes, Alexandria
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Remembering the Storm of the Century by Deirdre Long
dlong@annistonstar.com

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