We’ve all seen the post-apocalyptic movies and shows. Walking dead neatly created sets which were empty of people. I Am Legend and other movies depicted life devoid of other people. Of course, those are zombie apocalypse genre and we’ll get into those later this week. I guess this subject is good for Halloween.
There’s a fixation with drastic events in the American psyche. There are entire genres of books and films. The word is from ancient Greek and means “Revealing”, and is most associated with The Book of Revelations written by John the Apostle. It famously contains events which add to the entire social outlook of the world based on the events. Oddly, Revelations isn’t really about the dire events, but I suppose how we deal with uncontrollable events reveals much about us.
People prep for extreme events whether for hobby or serious intent. Personally, I’ve been through several weather events in my life that led me to create a certain amount of prep to deal with these situations as necessary.
These past experiences left an impression on my memories. Here are five times life felt like the Apocalypse:
- 1974 Tornadoes: I wrote about this event earlier this week as one during which I was close to death. The aftermath of the storm left many people without power for days as well as many trees down everywhere. Our street was blocked at both ends. School was dismissed. Dire reports came over the radio. People wandered around looking at what happened. It felt like our slice of the world had been reduced to living life like a hundred years earlier. Eventually life got back to normal, but we cooked from camping gear or the fireplace and it was easy to imagine at time when it’s the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI for short). This was the biggest tornado outbreak recorded and the stuff of epic movie thrillers. I don’t watch movies about tornadoes, I’ve lived them until…
- 4/27/2011: This is a date remembered in Alabama, and across the south, for the devastating tornadoes that swept through the region. That morning, death passed by my back door as also noted in my former post this week. This was another event where we were without power for about six days, while cleaning up around the house. It took months to recover. I can remember video of people wandering around Tuscaloosa in shock at the enormity of the damage. There were many other communities with widespread damage and deaths. This was certainly an event that felt Apocalyptic. You could not find items at the store, but I was lucky to get my hands on a bigger, newer, working chainsaw. Generators were nowhere to be found in stores. It was hard to drive anywhere in the area due to all the downed trees. Here are a few links regarding the Tuscaloosa Tornado:
- 1993 Blizzard: Alabama doesn’t get too many snow events and most of them involve wet snow that turns to ice. These are usually about a day or two of inconvenience and kids out of school as roads are cleared and schools are confirmed not to have burst pipes and heat. We just don’t have these enough to warrant handling these events with a short shut-down in the region. But in late winter of 1993, we got a blizzard which is extremely rare for this region. Cold air swept south under an incoming major storm from across the Gulf of Mexico. Nobody took weather reports seriously the few days earlier, after all, the day of it was in the 60’s and partly sunny. They said it was getting cold and when I saw the radar on the weather, that was and uh-oh moment. We were inundated with a lot of precipitation while the temperatures dropped at least 30 degrees. It was thundersnow with iridescent green-blue lightning. We ended up with about 3 feet of powdery snow (very rare for this region) and the state locked down. I was able to drive around in a 4-wheel drive I owned at the time and it was eerie to drive around without anyone on the road. It was serene, but strangely empty.
- Snowpocalypse/snowmegddon – this storm in 2014 even got its own apocalyptic nicknames. It started as a snow storm – wet snow – on cold ground and streets and turned into a mass traffic quagmire. The snow surprised local meteorologists in that it stuck. I thought the ground was plenty cold since we’d had several days of dry, cold weather. It started snowing mid-morning after everyone in Birmingham arrived at work. They all started bailing out of work at the same time causing traffic jams. The roads quickly iced over and entire sections of highways were jammed with cars and big trucks. People were taken in at hotels by the droves. My wife and daughter got stuck coming home and walked to a friend’s house for shelter. Somehow, I got in my trusty Honda Pilot with all-wheel drive, got on the interstate and found my direction free of almost all traffic. I cruised at a top speed of 20 mph, climbed a few inclines safely, and made it home. I got off easier than several years earlier when I tried to go to work for an early shift during an ice storm. My rear-wheel drive Ford Explorer slipped one way rear-end first. I got it under control. It went the other way, and I got it under control. the third time it never gave me a chance as it swung the SUV entirely around and I took a giant sled ride down a hill and dropped a rear tire in the ditch. This time, I got home safely, but it felt like an Apocalypse, hence the local name. The pictures look like something from the Walking Dead with snow, wait, that right out of Game of Thrones and the snow-walkers. It makes you think how much art imitates life, or vice versa…
- Pandemic commute – after the lockdown in March of 2020, I was deemed an essential worker and kept going to my job. The first week was a matter for discussion among us in the cube-farm. We all commented about how creepy the commute was. Driving on empty roads was a welcome change, but we all expected to see zombies wandering the roadways. I suppose all the genre movies and shows have that effect. I’ve been there with snow events, but this was way creepier since it wasn’t a weather event. Seriously, creep factor kept playing tricks with me to the point where a cyclist was mildly alarming. I shouldn’t watch Walking Dead re-runs again.
I have a lot of adventures as I dredge through my memories. Life’s been far more eventful that it seemed over the years.
Once, before I was married, I was driving late-night to Nashville to visit my soon-to-be wife. The night was frigid in the low twenties and expected to drop to single digits. I was making good time in my old 1980 Plymouth Champ, but the gas level was heading toward empty. But I knew I had enough to make it to my exit to fill-up.
About three miles from the exit, the car sputtered a couple of times even though I had plenty of gas left. Then, it died and I costed to a stop on the shoulder.
The gas line had frozen.
Almost made it.
What was I to do?
I thought of walking, but it was cold so I started running. Not too far along, a sheriff deputy stopped and picked me up. I got a short ride in the back to my exit where I placed a phone call on a pay-phone (I’m really dating myself – hey, I saw one in the middle of nowhere a month or so back). My fiancé drove out and picked me up.
For a few minutes, it was a lonely run on the side of a dark, cold highway.
Guess what? It snowed and it was several days before I could get out to gas up my car. Thankfully, it was in one piece.
That’s all I’ve got for today. I could go on about roadside breakdowns (that’s not the only time I took a run for for a gas station, but maybe another time). Feel free to share your apocalyptic stories in the comments and I’ll get back to you. I’ll be back with a creepier topic later this week.