Salisbury woman experiences the storms of Alabama up close

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — Pat Beck will go to great lengths to see her grandchildren.

But Beck had no idea her holiday drive to Alabama would put her in the middle of a state which endured 25 tornadoes in three days, record rains and massive flooding. Sadly, 17 deaths were blamed on the storms, which led to the governor’s declaring a state of emergency.

For the record, Beck never saw a funnel cloud, nor were her various travels throughout the state significantly detoured by closed roads — and at one point, Alabama had at least 200 closed roads.

But it seemed Beck saw more water than Noah.

“Everywhere we went it rained and it rained hard,” she said.

Beck, who is back home in Salisbury, made the Christmas road trip to Alabama with her daughter, Sandra Beck Lyerly, and son-in-law Robert Lyerly Sr. The Lyerlys live in Union County. Sandra is a teacher; Robert, a Charlotte attorney.

They stayed overnight in Augusta, Ga., on Dec. 22 and arrived in Alabama on Dec. 23, a day when Alabama had 20 different tornado sightings.

Over the next several days, their travels to see different grandchildren and a 1-year-old great-grandchild of Beck’s took them to Montgomery, Birmingham, Winfield, back to Birmingham and over to Montgomery again.

“We were on the highway a lot,” Beck said. “Our family was a little bit scattered.”

The rain kept falling no matter what time of day or where they were in the state.

“Crazy me, I would have pulled over,” Beck said of times when the rain was heaviest. “But not my son-in-law, and everybody else kept going, too.”

Beck said the family saw only one case where someone had driven off the road and one other instance when the rain had caused an accident. “That surprised us,” she said, acknowledging they thought they would see more weather-related mishaps.

Beck has three grandchildren, two of whom are living in Alabama — Elizabeth in Montgomery and Robert in Birmingham. James, a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, flew down and joined everyone else during the holiday.

Because of the weather, James’ flight out of Greensboro was delayed and also made stops in Charlotte and Atlanta before reaching Montgomery. His bag did not arrive with him.

Beck headed for home Sunday after James was on his flight back to Greensboro. She thinks this was her fourth trip to Alabama since Elizabeth and Robert both married and settled with their spouses there.

This excursion just happened to be scarier than the others.

“It was an enjoyable stay,” Beck said, “but getting there and back was the problem. It was a lot of rain.”

After returning to Salisbury, Beck had many Christmas emails she wanted to answer to friends.

“One of my remarks was, ‘Glenwood Avenue never looked so good,'” Beck said.

“That’s fine going away, but it’s so good getting home. It will take me a week to get over it.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.