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This Momma is prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse

On Tuesday, January 28, snow started to fall upon Birmingham, Alabama and for the following two days the city fell into chaos. Families were separated, abandoned cars littered the freeways, highways shut down, businesses, schools and the government shut down, and the zombies started to roam the once modern city.

Waiting for the zombies: Traffic on "Snowpocalypse" Day, January 28, 2014, Atlanta. (Photo Credit William Brawley under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License)

Waiting for the zombies: Traffic on “Snowpocalypse” Day, January 28, 2014, Atlanta.
(Photo Credit William Brawley under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License)

Just kidding. About the zombie part a least. But if you saw the looks on peoples faces— we may have well have been reenacting an episode of “The Walking Dead.” Three inches of snow, which immediately turned to ice, on a city not ready and not used to snow and ice created a few zombie days of not knowing what was up, where we were, or what day it was. If you saw the news reports about Atlanta and the effects of snow on that major metropolis, we experienced the same thing— just on a smaller scale. Children slept at their schools, parents slept at work, families were stuck on the interstates for hours, people walked miles to get home, abandoning cars that were hit, stuck, or where it was just to dangerous to move. We were still trying to recover over a week later.

When I moved from Hawaiʻi to Birmingham, Alabama with my husband and son this summer, I was prepared to be faced with strange new weather. High heat and humidity, as well as cooler temperatures, unlike anything I had ever experienced in my tropical homeland. I know, what a change, what a move, are you crazy? Yes, I’ve heard it all. I no longer have 20 minute access to the ocean, and rarely need to slather sunscreen all over myself—but I still have a hurricane kit in my kitchen pantry and an emergency roadside kit in my trunk.

Why you ask? Let’s just say after living though Hurricane Ewa in 1982 and Iniki in 1992, and several tsunamis— that thankfully arrived in inches rather than feet— when I heard I was moving to a town that tracked tornados, thunder storms, AND hurricanes— my need for a an emergency kit being packed and ready to go was foremost in my mind.

I figured, even if we don’t get a tornado or a hurricane, and even if it doesn’t snow or drop golfball sized hail— if nothing else we should be prepared for a zombie apocalypse— because then we’ll be ready for anything. Right?

Okay, maybe I have a bit of “The Walking Dead” on my brain, as I am two hours from Atlanta and the CDC, but really, I’d like to think it’s because I grew up on a small island which made me truly grasp the concept of planning ahead for my small family. When Hawai’i is hit with a natural disaster, we are basically cut off from mainland help for at least 72 hours. So my family always had a cooler stocked with extra can goods and water, candles and hurricane lamps close at hand, and $200 in cash stashed in a sock drawer.

Snow at The Vulcan Park and Museum, Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo Credit Rian Castillo under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License)

Snow at The Vulcan Park and Museum, Birmingham, Alabama.
(Photo Credit Rian Castillo under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License)

So when Winter Storm Leon hit the southern states, my husband and I had a plan. We usually have a plan when we know inclement weather is on its way. It’s second nature to us, as we didn’t want to be stuck at home without supplies for two or three days. But this plan had to do with being out on the road, the one thing I think folks forget about within their emergency preparedness kit. Even if we have all our food, candles, and extra water all set at home, what happens when disaster strikes and we’re at work or school? A travel/traffic plan is just as important.

On the 28th, school had not been cancelled, much to my dismay. Not that I didn’t want to go to work or wanted my child to miss school— but I knew from experience what would happen if the snow fell— we’d never be able to get home. Not because of crazy snow drifts or freezing weather— but because of the traffic.

When you live on a small island with roughly a million people and everyone has their own car and refuses to carpool and public transit is not really an option— you understand traffic. Honolulu has some of the worst traffic in the United States. Not kidding. We beat Los Angeles in 2012, and in 2013 we slipped back to #2. Which is not anything we cheered about, mind you. It’s not an honor we island folk care to celebrate. My 21 mile commute to work took me about 2 hours to 2.5 hours DAILY. I spent a lot of time in my car. It’s the one thing I do not miss about living in Hawai’i.

Daily traffic in Hawaiʻi- always packed, always constant- the only plus- sometimes you see a rainbow. (Photo Credit Hoʻolaʻi Tjorvatjoglou

Daily traffic in Hawaiʻi- always packed, always constant- the only plus- sometimes you see a rainbow.
(Photo Credit Hoʻolaʻi Tjorvatjoglou)

The day Leon was to arrive— the Weather Channel thought snow would start to fall between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., so I had my husband drive me and my son to school, and arranged to call him to pick us up. If the snow came and went, no problem, he’d pick us up after school. If the snow fell and decided to stick around, he’d come whenever I called. Luckily, we live about a mile from the school (I teach at my son’s middle school) and the commute is a blissfully short five minutes. Don’t hate me— I have wasted enough of my life sitting in traffic.

By the time the kids were dismissed from school, the roads were already packed. And southern drivers who are understandably not used to driving in snow and ice, started spinning out and getting into accidents. I called my husband and he came to get us. Our typically five minute drive home was long and slow and we passed several accidents and more than a dozen stalled/abandoned cars. Most not even pushed off to the side, they were parked where they stopped— sideways, facing backward, blocking half of the road. We finally made it to the main highway after taking a short cut through a business and our church, and got home after 90 minutes of creeping and dodging cars.

It was nerve-racking and telling as to what lay ahead for most of my townspeople. And the maddening point— it’s not their fault. They were reacting to what was set out for them and they were just trying to get to their kids and get home safely. Isn’t that what every parent wants during a time of crisis?

So I was thankful my husband and I had a plan, a pantry full of food, and a stocked freezer. We didn’t ever lose power, but we found the candles and cooked a few meals that would keep, just in case. Cellular service was sketchy, so we used our landline to call friends and reassure family. We filled a tub with water in the event we lost water service. We made sure the fireplace was ready to go if the heat went out. The only thing we didn’t have was a propane stove and a good first aid kit. Something to definitely put on the list to prepare for the next possible snow fall. Or tornado. Or hurricane. Or zombie uprising.

When the Zombies rise, be prepared for anything. (Photo credit:

When the Zombies rise, be prepared for anything.
(Photo credit:

But one thing is for sure, even thought the dead did not rise, we were prepared to deal with what happened. And as a family we were together which was not the case for so many others. So have a plan folks, a traffic plan, a where to meet if separated plan, and a back-up plan in case all else fails. Make sure you check out the many emergency preparedness kits and lists of what to do posted by the CDC. It may seem a bit scary to prepare for the events they mention— but they are right— if you prepare for a zombie apocalypse, you are prepared for Everything. I have a few things to add to my list to help me prepare, like getting a crossbow and learning how to swing a samurai sword. I suppose I’d like to be prepared for anything.

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About Wendie Burbridge (15 Articles)
Wendie Burbridge is a Contributing Editor for Sweatpants & Coffee. She also writes the popular Hawaii Five-0 blog “The Five-0 Redux” for The Pulse, the online magazine for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Her fiction, poetry, and plays have been published several times in different literary journals and textbooks, most notably by Bamboo Ridge Press, ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal, Fat Ulu Productions, and Autumn House Press.

6 Comments on This Momma is prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse

  1. I love this article. As a Maryland native living in Alabama it isn’t shocking to me to see how things are handled here, or how the public deals with them. AL isn’t known to be a snow state. Driving here is dangerous due to drivers without skill, or experience and the fact that no roads are treated, ever.

    I always love to be prepared and I am happy to see someone else is too. Filling up the tub is always the first thing I say when there is a disaster like this. Drinking water is SO important. Thanks for all the other tips as well!

  2. Great tips that are also useful for earthquake preparedness – just add a good pair of closed toed shoes to the kit in your vehicle.

    • Hi Mary Ann!
      Thanks for reading:) Closed toes shoes are such a great idea. Thanks for the tip. Many women talked about walking in the snow in their work shoes with heels and it was hard to get around- and very cold and dangerous. Great idea. Thanks for the tip:) Aloha, Wendie

  3. As a native NYer snow and ice are no strangers to my driving experience. I’ve never needed to fill my tub but I know other areas that do and am fortunate to rarely loose power. But I love to be prepared, just in case! I live w/flashlights at the ready in every room, a case of bottled water, a full tank off gas in both my car and BBQ and enough food to feed an small (oh, alright large) army!! And a good book or 3!! Hopefully this wicked winter will soon be a bad memory and I’ll tuck away the emergency preparedness plan till next year. Thanks for sharing the tips!!

    • HI Karen-
      Thanks for sharing your experience and your tips! You’re right about the books- I did a lot of reading while we were snowed in:) Luckily we didn’t lose power as well- that would have been bad since our main heat source is gas and power would have knocked it out. I’m hoping we are seeing the last of this winter, but it looks like more cold is on its way:( Hope you are safe and warm:) Thanks for reading! Aloha, Wendie

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