By Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey
Recent rare winter weather crippled areas of our state, created dangerous road conditions, left drivers stranded on interstates and highways with little choice but to wait it out, and parents were unable to retrieve children from schools. Governor Robert Bentley, Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency, the Alabama National Guard, and countless emergency responders prepared for and responded to the crisis promptly and effectively. The Governor wisely declared a State of Emergency in advance of the storm, ordered the National Guard on deck, and placed EMA on alert. Once the weather set in, resources were deployed to help as many people as possible, but not everyone could be reached.
Once again, Alabamians stepped up and filled the gap. In the 24 hours after the winter weather hammered our state, stories of everyday heroism surfaced. A woman in Trussville drove more than 100 stranded drivers home; a Chick-Fil-A operator distributed hundreds of free meals to the frustrated and hungry; a Birmingham doctor walked six miles in the ice and snow to perform life-saving brain surgery; our own Alabama Senator Slade Blackwell spent six hours pushing cars through icy streets; and schools cared for more than 11,000 children overnight. Ask most anyone, and they could share a similar story of Alabamians helping Alabamians.
The South received quite a bit of criticism for its preparation and handling of the winter conditions, but I challenge anyone to criticize our altruism or self-sufficiency.
The fact remains Southern states do not experience sub-freezing temperatures frequently and are not as well-equipped to handle the conditions, but I believe Governor Bentley, many local leaders, and emergency responders deserve great credit for their leadership and efforts.
In the case of loss of life in any disaster, one is too many. It is gravely unfortunate that seven Alabamians lost their lives due to weather-related incidents. I extend my sincere condolences to their families.
It is my hope that we can learn from this experience and implement measures to increase safety and improve the State’s response next time. But one thing we have mastered is how to care for ourselves and our own people.
Alabamians did not waste time blaming others or waiting for help to arrive. The Alabama spirit prevailed and people jumped to action. That is who we are and that is what makes our state great.