Plenty of people around the American south had hellish experiences over the past few days because of the snow and ice that wreaked havoc across multiple states.
It would appear the South Alabama women's basketball team encountered more trouble than anyone on the road for sports reasons. The group was on a bus ride from their campus in Mobile, Ala., to Atlanta for the team's game against Georgia State.
The team left for Atlanta before the snow began to fall, and by the time it was on the road and getting fairly close to The A, it was much too late to turn back. Eventually, everyone on the team bus had to resort to walking in order to find a bed. They stepped into the lobby at the team hotel at approximately 9:30 Wednesday morning, a full day removed from their departure. Normally, the trip from Mobile to Atlanta is approximately four and a half to five hours.
"This trip is something you'll remember the rest of your lives and something you will share forever.," South Alabama coach Terry Fowler told AL.com. The story is fairly amazing. The team began to look for lunch spots soon after it left on Tuesday morning; with the impending weather crisis, most were closed. Thankfully, a Chick-fil-A that was just about to close agreed to stay open and feed the team.
"We got back on the bus and started going and I said, 'You know, it's not that bad.' We hit the Georgia state line and we started seeing flurries and things like that,'' Fowler said. "By the time we got to Peachtree, about 40 miles from Atlanta, there's snow on the road. But we're fine and traffic is moving. We get to Atlanta and at 285 things come to a stop. Everybody's sitting on 285 so we say, 'OK, we'll just go on 85.'
The team was unable to get off the proper exit to get them to their hotel, despite the fact they were just a couple of miles away. At this point it was around 8 p.m., per the story, and the team was just sitting in true gridlock, waiting for any sign of an opening. Ambulances were driving to the scene and helpless to go anywhere. The team bus slid across lanes, fortunately dodging cars in the process.
It got dismal. But there's a really uplifting part.
The hours continue to pass, the movement measured in feet, not miles. It becomes apparent the team will be stuck on the bus for the night and that information is accepted and everyone gets as comfortable as possible and tries to get some sleep. At about 2 in the morning EST a man, who would identify himself only as Jason, walks up to the bus.
"There's a guy out just helping people,'' Fowler said. "There's only one lane of traffic (usable) and cars and everybody are sliding, but he's out helping people. He gets to our bus and he says, 'Let me see if I can help you guys.' He said, 'You should probably just stay here because on the other side where Georgia 400 goes, in buses like you, they are all just slammed against the guardrails.' He asked us, 'Have you guys eaten?' We said no. He says, 'Let me go to my car.' He comes back with peanut butter crackers and chips and stuff like that. And that's all we had to eat since Montgomery.''
Fowler tried to pay Jason for the food but he wouldn't accept any money. He told them he would be back by later in the day on Wednesday on his way to work and if they were still stuck he would have some more food for them.
"We're two miles from our hotel,'' he said. ".... It takes us 25 minutes to walk. We call back to the bus and say, 'Hey, if you want, it's not a bad walk.' (The players) walk to the hotel too and the bus driver stays with the bus and probably two hours later she was able to get it to the hotel.'' The first thing everyone in the party did once everyone was at the hotel, at 10:30 a.m. EST, was head straight for the dining area to get some breakfast.
"It whe game, which originally was scheduled to be played
The team's game had to be moved back from Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon. They'll play today at 3:30, before the men's teams tip at 6 p.m. South Alabama's men's team was due to leave a few hours after the women back on Tuesday. Because the dire nature of the weather was so accelerated and clearly a more dangerous situation than when the women left, they stayed home for an extra day, forcing the postponement.
Fowler said his team never complained amid the 24-hour odyssey.