On my way back from my 3-day TDY to my facilities in South Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, I encountered an intense rainstorm on I-65 North between Conecuh and Butler counties. The skies were dark and you could see the lightning flashes in the sky and even though I had the Sirius XM blasting in the rental car, I could still hear and feel the thunder rumbling. It was a bit of an interesting drive. It reminded me of a similar drive from 6 ½ years ago. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: driving in the I-20 West thunderstorm.
How I first came across this moment? It was on June 19, 2009. I had just finished attending a Ledisi and Anthony David concert in Atlanta. As I was headed west on I-20 back to Birmingham, it started raining as entered into Carroll County. It intensified as I passed Tallapoosa, Georgia nearing the Alabama state line. By the time I crossed over into Alabama, it was crazy raining with lightning flashes and thunder all over the place. It didn’t let until I was I was in Calhoun County.
What it meant to me then? In the moment, I was actually pretty nervous. I left Atlanta a little after 11pm and it was a 2 ½ hour drive to Birmingham on one of the darkest interstate stretches in the region. Those 40-something miles between Tallapoosa, Georgia and Oxford, Alabama during an intense late night thunderstorm—possibly a tornado—were crazy. I seriously thought about stopping at the Alabama Welcome Center in Cleburne County to wait it out because I didn’t want to drive that 8-mile stretch through the Talladega National Forest in those conditions—especially with the road construction on I-20 West—but after I crossed the state line and approached the welcome center, I could see water gushing down the entrance ramp hill so I kept it moving. By the grace of God, I made it through the Talladega National Forest without incident and as soon as I got into Calhoun County, I took a pit stop at a Chevron in Oxford. It was more about gaining my bearings more than fueling up. It was also a chance to call my father and tell him about it. He asked me about how the Rain-X he put on my windows the day before. I told him that it held up well and that I could see clearly, which is part of the reason why I continued on through the forest. But whew…that was a drive.
What it means to me now? So it’s been 6 ½ years since that drive and I still think fondly on it. I learned a bit about myself as a driver in less than ideal conditions and about the way the Midnight Blue Express handled in those same conditions.