Several inches of snow snarled traffic and closed schools across the southeast region of the United States last week. HNP friars and partners-in-ministry were among 50 million people affected by the icy precipitation that began Tuesday, Jan. 28.
The storm was part of a weather system that gathered moisture from the Gulf of Mexico before colliding with a cold front coming from Canada, creating the rare winter weather for the region, according to the U.S. Weather Service.
Six state governors declared an emergency, activating the National Guard and triggering state laws against price gouging. Three of those states — Georgia and both Carolinas — are home to several HNP friars and ministries.
At the University of Georgia’s Catholic Center in Athens, Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, director, and David Hyman, OFM, saw the campus close on Jan. 29.
“In Athens, all quietly shut down and, according to the papers, public services took care of the roads nicely,” said David.
While Athens wasn’t bad, Atlanta was “a nightmare” according to Thomas, speaking of an area where one of his fellow friars experienced a travel challenge.
Ministry of the Word friar John Anglin, OFM, was stuck in the nightmarish traffic struggle that ensnared hundreds of commuters, forcing some to abandon their cars and sleep in nearby buildings. John, who was on his way to visit friends in Atlanta, found the city “paralyzed” upon his arrival on Wednesday.
“After spending an hour in one spot, some other people and I got out of our cab, paid for it and spent the night in a motel,” he said. “My friends could not get to me for two days. That said, I consider myself blessed, because I was warm, sheltered and fed.
“I pray for those who are in danger and realize that, in spite of my hardships, there are many people in the world who live worse than this every day,” he continued. “I treated this like two days of retreat.”
John asked his Facebook friends to pray for those still in danger, including the students who slept in their schools over night.
“I’m really impressed with the ‘Good Samaritans’ here who helped with food, clothing and so many other things,” he said. “Several Kroger supermarkets let people stay and provided food. On the other hand, state and city political leaders were a disaster.”
John was finally reunited with his friends on Jan. 30.
“Atlanta is gridlock on a nice day,” said David, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. “Add ice and snow, and you suddenly have a disaster. Around noon, the city employees and schools decided everybody should vacate. As the news and pictures tell you, a nightmare struck quickly. I spoke with a lady yesterday, who told me a friend on the road in Atlanta got home at 6 a.m. That person was luckier than some others.”
Temperatures hovered in the 20s during the day and the single digits at night, creating icy roads throughout the Carolinas as the region dealt with several inches of snow. More than 820 automobile collisions occurred in South Carolina between 4 p.m. on Jan. 28 and 4 a.m. on Jan. 29. During the same time last year, troopers responded to 90 collisions, according to The Independent Mail.
In Greenville, S.C., Patrick Tuttle, OFM, was undaunted by the winter weather, the first snow since last February.
“It is our usual once-a-year ice storm,” said Patrick, who ministers in a region that sees 2.5 inches of snow on average per year. “There were no significant issues here.”
Furman University, where Patrick is campus minister, and Clemson, S.C., University, where Robert Menard, OFM, is chaplain, closed early Jan. 28 and reopened Jan. 30. Clemson accumulated two inches of snow, according to The Tiger.
Parish activities were canceled Jan. 28 and 29 at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C., which received one inch of snow. In Raleigh, N.C., where 1.5 inches fell, the Franciscan School closed early on Jan. 28 and remained closed until Jan. 31, resuming classes after a two-hour delay. The average amount of snow per year for the Raleigh-Durham area is seven inches.
Because the snow came in the middle of Catholic Schools Week, several planned activities at the Franciscan School were interrupted.
“Seventh graders had planned to stay on campus and sort 50 bags of clothing for a local non-profit,” said Marc Kielty, coordinator of ministry support for Raleigh’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish. “The eighth graders were to be transported off campus to four locations to assist the Durham Rescue mission in sorting articles and working in their thrift shops. The elementary school had planned to assemble 25 soup kits for Our Lady of the Rosary Food Pantry.
“On the plus side,” Kielty continued, “peace and tranquility settled across our normally busy campus. We noticed a spike in our parish website traffic and, in particular, an increase to those clicking and opening the daily reflection on God’s inspired word put out by William McConville, OFM.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.