Pelham’s Blair takes long way home due to winter stormPublished 7:50pm Thursday, January 30, 2014
By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Writer
PELHAM — Like many people in Shelby County, Pelham High School girls’ golf and swimming coach Scott Blair didn’t give much thought to the possibility of snow on Jan. 28.
“The morning started out like many days I have experienced where a ‘small dusting’ of snow (was) expected,” he said.
Blair expected to get out of school early, promising his wife Britni that he’d pick up some food for their dog, Jozy, on the way home before walking out the door.
What Blair didn’t know was that his return home wouldn’t be until 3 p.m. the following day.
When he got to Pelham High, Blair said students were abuzz with the excitement of finding out that nearby schools were closing, and by 11 a.m., the junior parking lot was turning white from the snow and ice.
As students dwindled out of the school, Blair got an email from his wife letting him know that she had his phone if he wanted to get it.
About that time, the staff at Pelham noticed that conditions were deteriorating quickly at Pelham due to its being at a higher altitude in the city.
“It always feels 10 times colder at PHS, and the elevation (of) the school made it not safe to turn on Bearden Road out of the school,” he said. “So we brought all the students that had not left back in. There were about 150 kids with me and a dozen or so teachers in the gym lobby. We were asked to take them back into our classrooms and I took about 15 students and took attendance.”
While Blair was watching over the students in his room, the winter fury started taking its toll on the county.
“I called my wife with a coworker’s phone and she was in tears at Winn-Dixie of 459, Exit 6,” he said. “(She was) saying that she got to go home early, but it was impossible to drive up Morgan Road to get up to Shades Crest where we live.”
Blair said students began checking out in large numbers around 2:30 p.m., and by 2:45 p.m., his classroom was empty. He set out to meet up with his wife to walk her home.
“I thought I needed to be there by 4 p.m. to have enough time to walk home with her with some daylight left and feed our dog,” he said. “Around 3 p.m. I decided to try to get home. I filled up my tank and decided to go I-65 north to make it to our exit to get my wife.”
After getting on the interstate, Blair said he didn’t see any traffic, and thought he was in the clear. By the time he got to Exit 252, however, the traffic began to slow to a stop.
Blair said he turned on the radio, tuning into Bill “Bubba” Bussey — who was snowed in at his studio — give listeners tips on handling the weather. When it became obvious that he’d have to spend the night in his truck, Blair said he took Bussey’s advice about how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and “getting your mind right,” he said.
Blair said he got his truck as warm as possible, then shut it off and wrapped up in his coat to keep warm.
“I stayed in my truck and went into survival mode,” he said. “I did not have any food or water, but I knew that would not be a problem in the short term. I probably woke up freezing a dozen times, but I would turn the truck on and reheat the cab and I was okay.”
Still, while he was lying in the dark trying to stay warm, Blair’s thoughts began to drift to his wife.
“After I laid down for the night, I started thinking about not having my phone,” he said. “I knew my wife was going to be worried. Looking back, I should have gotten out of the truck and asked someone to borrow their phone. However, I opened the door to the truck and the interstate was a black sheet of ice. I started thinking ‘If I get out of here in my dress shoes and fall, I could potentially break something and make things a whole lot worse for myself.”
Blair said he only saw one emergency vehicle, and that it was a quiet night altogether.
He rose at daybreak, and began to weave in and out of traffic, trying to get to I-459. He made up the two miles in three hours, where he got to Morgan Road in a short amount of time. He found his wife’s car, and once he realized she didn’t sleep in her car, made it to a nearby McDonald’s, where he called her.
In a matter of minutes, Blair’s odyssey was over. Reunited with his friends and family, he walked in his front door 20 hours after leaving Pelham High.
Despite the ordeal, Blair said he was focused on the positive aspects of his journey.
“Like everyone else, I had to make a lot of choices (Jan. 28),” he said. “I made a few mistakes. Walking out the door without my phone was my biggest mistake. I hate that my wife was in such a panic because of the situation, but I’m just glad I made it home safe and I thank God I have such wonderful family and friends.”