SURRATT: Recollections from life in the frozen tundra

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 18, 2022

I’m sitting at my desk, occasionally looking out the window to see the wind and rain from a squall line preceding a cold front that’s supposed to bring some cooler temperatures for the next few days.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year about this time, we were slowly thawing out from what was a serious winter storm that shut the city down for several days, covering it in ice and making any kind of travel next to impossible. The only people out were law enforcement, city work crews looking for leaks, firefighters and paramedics.

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I can remember looking out our kitchen window and seeing almost a sheet of ice covering driveways and cars. At one point, I went out to check our cars, trying my best not to slip and slide and put myself in the hospital as I negotiated what few dry and “grippable” spots there were.

I remember I started my weekly column that week with the words, “Greetings from Hoth,” because the frozen tundra outside reminded me of the ice planet from the second Star Wars movie “The Empire Strikes Back.”

But unlike the rebel forces in the movie, we couldn’t escape Hoth; were stuck in our homes and unable to sally forth on expeditions to get the news of how the sheet of ice was affecting the city. In other words, set up the laptops and get out the phones; you’re working from home.

For the duration of my stay at home, the kitchen table served as my desk and my cell phone my link to the outside world as I called people, wrote stories and tried to keep my mind on what I was doing.

I don’t like working at home. I love my wife and daughter and I love spending time with them, but it’s hard, in my home, to work. For one thing, the kitchen looks right into the living area where the TV is and during my time at my home/office, Turner Classic Movies had some real classics and some of my favorite movies on. It was hard to bang out a story on utilities problems when Humphrey Bogart is getting ready to shoot it out with Conrad Veidt in the climax of “Casablanca,” my favorite movie.

At least there were some saving graces during the freeze — our power did not go out; our WiFi stayed on and, until the panic began, we had water pressure. And I was able to sleep at night.

I’ve been in this business for 43 years. I have experienced sub-zero weather and 9-inch snowfalls in North Alabama. I’ve covered floods and hurricanes. The ice storm was a first, and hopefully the last such event I’ll ever see.

When we lived in Decatur, Ala., and experienced heavy snowfall, I took an atlas, a pen and a ruler, drew a line through Huntsville and declared, “I am moving no further north than here.”

I’ve kept that promise, and looking at the weather in the rest of the country, I’m glad I did.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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