Beyond the Build

Community Service

Weather ‘a Changing

Weather models get it right most of the time. Every once in a while, a forecast misses the mark, as happened this week in Birmingham, Atlanta, and in between. 

We were expecting only a light dusting of snow, with any significant impact headed south of us. Midday, the weather pattern veered north and the roads iced within an hour. As one knows, you cannot drive on an ice cube. The situation deteriorated quickly. 

Schools did not let out until noon, and the hazardous conditions kept many parents from picking their children up. While some made it home, thousands across the region spent the night in businesses, schools, retail stores and restaurants. Thousands of cars were stranded on the roads, and people called them home for the evening. Three cars went off the road and into the river near our office. One of our foremen slid off the interstate and walked 3 miles to his house. There were jackknifed tractor-trailer rigs everywhere. In short, interstates and highways just looked like a long, linear parking lot.

About noon, I realized it was too late for me, and I spent the night here with two others. Our controller left the office to go home about 11 that morning and, after 8 hours in her car, realized she would not make it. She fortunately was able to get back here to spend the night. 

The nice thing? 

Many, many people opened their homes and business to friends and strangers alike, offering a hot cup of coffee, food, water and lodging if needed. We did all this because deep down, we as people care about others. 

Sometimes it takes a near catastrophe to remind us what’s important. The weather forecast will miss the mark at times, but in the worst situations, I believe one can always count on seeing the best in people when the chips are down. 

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.