A part of the story you may not know is how much Captain Herb had to give up, just to be on the air that day. Charlotte Motor Speedway was hosting its annual NASCAR Media Tour and Captain Herb always took three or four days off work to go cover it.
NASCAR was more of a passion project for him than a necessity to cover. Every time he went to Charlotte - or to Atlanta Motor Speedway, for that matter - Captain Herb was an instant draw. Many of his old buddies came right over to him like they had not lost any time. And he loved the access to the drivers and other staples of NASCAR. But our Program Director Pete Spriggs gave him a phone call Monday, the day before the storm, saying that he may need to turn around and come home.
Captain Herb did not sleep in on Tuesday morning. He probably got up earlier than the free hotel breakfast and made a B-line for Atlanta, arriving in the nick of time.
I was working solo in the WSB Traffic Center, anticipating the storm to arrive later than it did. At about 10 a.m., we started getting freezing rain and ice reports in Cherokee, Bartow, and Cobb counties. Captain Herb was just entering the range for the two-way radio in his vehicle to operate and he started leading the reports with me, until he got established in his home studio in Douglasville.
He had rightfully taken off of work to go cover his passion. He didn’t have to come back from vacation. He didn’t have to work 12-hour shifts tirelessly. But Mother Nature called and Captain Herb answered. He always put the mission before his gratification. He set the bar for how the WSB Traffic Team tries to operate now.
Just two-and-a-half months after Snowmaggedon, a heart attack claimed Captain Herb’s life. He and a law enforcement buddy of his saw a wreck in front of his house, rescued the people from the vehicle, and then directed traffic around it. That’s when the Lord brought him home.
Tragic as it was, how fitting was his exit? He died helping others and did so just a few weeks after ending his vacation after only one day and working marathon shifts during one of Atlanta’s worst traffic problems. Helping others was always Captain Herb’s first mission. That’s the lesson I want to take from Snowmageddon 2014.