Last week, we in the Southeast experienced a weather week for the record books. Many people in the Northern states were snickering after seeing Atlanta become completely debilitated over 2 to 3 inches of snow….that wasn’t just snow, but ICE! Atlanta is just now recovering from the worst snow/ice storm I have experienced since my family moved to Atlanta in 1963, when I was 6 years old. We’ve never seen anything like this before here in the South, where we don’t usually get winter weather of this magnitude. But, we got it this time and when I started posting pics on my Facebook page, quickly found out that lot of folks in the northern part of our country thought this was really funny and were poking fun at the South and our inability to drive in 2” of snow. What I thought was sharing weather pics and updates, quickly became a lot of back and forth dialogue between Southerners and Northerners, and who could deal with what. The South was becoming the butt of jokes all across the country. But, luckily most folks were compassionate and caring, so thank you!
It did get a little tiresome hearing how we can’t handle snow down here and what wusses we all are. We, in the South, know that the North has horrific weather with snow and ice to a much BIGGER degree than we could ever imagine, BUT you all have the equipment and know how to deal with all of that in your cities. We do not. So, you Northern folks win the worst weather situations and knowing how to get out there and drive in it. Kudos to you. We Southerners, however, live in the South for a reason!
But, of course, the story is not just about 2” of snow, as was first reported with gales of laughter, but a blanket of ice all over the roads that we weren’t prepared for nor do we have the equipment to deal with this type of winter weather. Add that to the fact that metro Atlanta has over 6 million residents, with a million of them leaving the downtown area at the same time that schools all over the metro Atlanta area were letting school out, trying to get the kids home….and well, you’ve got yourself a HUGE epic disaster that no one could have predicted.
Fingers have been pointed for days over whose fault it is, but really it’s a combination of errors and problem solving that our state just wasn’t equipped to handle and stop before it happened. From the Governor’s chair, to the Atlanta mayor, down to the Georgia Emergency director, to the various school officials, it was a horrible tragedy of timing that probably could have been lessened, but most likely not completely avoided because of the rapid way this storm moved in and covered the roads in such a short time. My friends in Alabama experienced much of the same as we did here in Georgia.
All of these next 6 pics, I took with my iphone along the 2 days I was stranded away from my house. I thought you all would enjoy seeing it from someone who lives here.
We were ALL affected in one way or another. I left home that Tuesday morning to meet a friend of mine for lunch. And that’s what it looked like when I left my house (above).
What we thought would be catching up over lunch, turned into much more. She lives about 5 miles from me and we were meeting up at a local sandwich shop, where I know the owners, Bob and Cindy with Great Harvest Bread Co. It had already begun to snow when I left around 11:15 that morning. None of us thought much of it as we had been hearing “dusting of snow” for the last couple of days, but nothing could prepare any of us for what would happen next.
My friend, Lori, called and told me that she was on her way, but that school was letting out and that her kids would be home shortly with a neighbor, so why didn’t we pick up our lunch and head to her house a mile away for a short visit and then I would head home? Fine, sounded like a good idea. And I thought staying only an hour should be fine, surely I could get home after that, the 4 short miles back to my house. We got to her house just after 12 and caught up and visited for about an hour, all the while watching the snow fall outside. We could see it was starting to stick to the roads, but still didn’t think it was that bad. I got in my car and headed out, driving back past the sandwich shop to the 2 lane road that leads back to my neighborhood. In between are at least 2 schools, all letting out about now as well as folks leaving work and trying to get home. The road I was on was already icing over and I started watching people slip and slide their way down the street. I was at the bottom of the hill below the sandwich shop at this point and began to think that I maybe should get off the road and into a safe place.
I could envision myself getting further down the road and not being able to get up a hill (we have LOTS of hills around here!) and perhaps getting stranded on the side of the road, a proposition I didn’t want to think about. So, I called Cindy and Bob at the Great Harvest sandwich shop to be sure they were still there and turned my car around at the bottom of the hill and slowly inched and slid my way back to the parking lot at their shopping center.
This is the hill I came up to get to the shopping center. It had been filled with traffic, but I guess many people were able to get out of there. I went in there and stayed for a couple of hours, as several folks walked in to take shelter. Some of them had been driving and realized the futility of trying to get further down the road, so were pulling off and leaving their cars, taking to foot and trying to find shelter. The store stayed open for a few hours, giving out food and drinks to those coming in, a mother and her children and several more people trying to get home to safety. After 2 hours, I realized that I wasn’t about to get back in my car and attempt to drive home, the roads were already covered in a thick sheet of ice as temps continued to drop. With our hills in Atlanta, it’s impossible to navigate with ice covering them. There’s just no way! And yes, we aren’t all used to driving in ice and snow either, so that multiples the hazards when so many folks are on the road at the same time, driving and sliding into one another or worse, a pole or ditch. We can’t handle winter weather, that’s for sure, but it’s not because we are stupid and can’t drive in a little snow. It’s compounded by the ice that always forms on the roads here in Georgia when this winter precipitation comes down so rapidly as it did last Tuesday. It blanketed the roads in a mere 2 hours, shutting down the city like nothing we’ve seen before.
I texted my friend, Lori, and told her I was coming back to her house, since she had already told me to do that if I needed to. So, I got on my coat and gloves and at least I had boots on, so walked the 1 mile back to her house on foot. It wasn’t bad at all and I carried my umbrella to keep the snow off my hair, which would then just make me colder. I’m definitely not made for the frozen tundra and am so grateful that I do live in the South, where this snow storm stuff doesn’t happen that often. This is in front of White Rabbit on Due West Road, for those of you in the area.
I stayed at my friends house for 2 nights, just to be sure those backroads leading back to my house were passable and they were 48 hours later. She was a wonderful hostess, feeding me and giving me a place to sleep and a hot shower. We had dinner with her neighbor both nights (their kids are fast friends), with food put together and everyone being fed. I was so happy to get back home to my house, because there truly is no place like home. I was glued to my iphone and Lori’s ipad and the local news all day Wednesday, watching the roads and what those in Atlanta faced on that Tuesday last week as the roads in Atlanta became impassable from the ice and snow and multitudes of cars on the road at the same time. So many folks were stranded on the roads for 5 to 24 hours, trying to get home to safety, trying to get their loved ones home safely. It was a dire situation and very scary for many people! I was one of the fortunate ones and parked my car in a safe spot, walked to a friends house where I had a warm house, food to eat, and a bed to sleep in. So, I didn’t have it bad at all, like so many other Atlantans. I feel for those who had to abandon their cars to get out of the freezing temps that Tuesday. Many cars were still being claimed 2 days later, abandoned on the sides of the road. We finally got above freezing weather on Friday and Saturday and the sun does the best job of melting this stuff, thank goodness!
There’s no place like HOME!
I found all of these shots on 11 Alive news and these depict what we all dealt with for 2 days last week. Of course, Tuesday was when it all came down and that began the horrible journey of everyone trying to get home at the same time.
Atlanta has lots of hills and when you add 2 inches of ice on those hills, well, you can imagine the disaster waiting to happen. We simple don’t have enough salt and sand trucks to handle something like this. And it happens on average of once every 10 years, so we tend to forget how bad it can be. This one will stick with us for a long, long while, you can be sure of that.
This is what happens when everyone working downtown tries to leave the city at the same time. All roads leading out of the city are jammed while those going in are empty.
This shows how fast the snow/ice fell and covered our streets. This is all within a 2 to 3 hour period. And who would dream that it would cover roads so thoroughly that had days before seen high temps? We just aren’t used to this stuff sticking when the temps have been higher.
No, this is not powdery snow, it’s already freezing to about 2” thick all over the roads. A solid sheet of ice and snow on top.
This pic has to be when it started thawing on Wednesday, showing all the cars trying to get up this hill on Tuesday night, but not making it. I know just where this intersection is in Marietta.
I just wanted to document this storm, since we surely don’t get them very often and I wanted to recount my own experience and talk about what Atlanta endured. This one was hard hitting and I daresay, if there is even a threat of wintery weather again, most folks will stay home and not venture out. We’ve had wolf cried about weather so many times and that’s why we were all unprepared and didn’t really heed the warnings. Last I heard, even though it was predicted as coming, at first it was supposed to hit south of Atlanta and the weather updates that this storm was indeed going to hit the metro Atlanta area happened around 3:30 a.m on Tuesday morning. That was sufficient time for the powers that be to move and direct, but it simply didn’t happen and there wasn’t a statewide plan for the storm. With all of the jurisdictions in and around Atlanta, it’s almost impossible for one entity to make decisions that will affect everyone. Businesses and counties are going to do what they feel necessary and all of that affects everyone, from downtown Atlanta to each county surrounding Atlanta. I’m afraid this could all happen again, unless things are changed around here.
We’ve had other disastrous storms over the years. Who could forget the horrors of January 1982, when again a storm hit just around Noon, sending everyone home from work and school, again cars abandoned and folks stranded all over the city. I found a website devoted to sharing stories and pics of Snowjam 82. Those of us who lived here back then remember it well, it was talked about for years. Back then though, we didn’t have the population we do now. There were much less cars on the road then, so when you add more people and cars to the mix, the disaster multiples ten fold. We had other storms in 1993 and 2011 as well, the year I moved back here. I remember being stranded in the house back in 1993, for about 3 days, with power outages, but not the massive stranding that happened this time around.
So, this post is really just to document my experiences and thoughts on this. I know this is nothing compared to what other parts of our country experience with winter weather (and believe me we feel for you and there’s a reason we all live in the South!). But, we in the South simply are not prepared physically and mentally for this type of thing. Atlanta pulled together in some mighty big ways during this storm and a local woman, Michelle Sollicito, started a Facebook group trying to help those stranded and in need, which quickly grew to over 50,000. That Facebook group got national attention after the worst of the storm had passed, as folks stepped up, helping get those stranded to safe places, passed out food/drinks, and many people were helped due to this social media group. That’s the good thing about something like this happening now. Back in 1982, we all didn’t have cell phones even, much less social media to help spread the word. Atlanta has been on the national news this week due to our weather situation, but I wanted to say how proud I am of this city, with normal folks pulling together and helping people as much as possible. That’s a wonderful thing to see in a city this size, the community pulling together to help. Many people opened their homes to strangers and helped with medical emergencies. There was a baby born on the highway when they couldn’t get to the hospital.
So, even though Atlanta is not a city well prepared for emergencies like this, we survived and made it through one of the worst storms we’ve ever been through. Life gets back to normal and I for one, am thankful that we don’t have to endure weather conditions like this very often. But, when we do, we are survivors and we make it!
Here’s hoping too that our government officials will somehow come together and brainstorm ways to ensure that nothing of this magnitude ever happens again. I’m afraid that this city is just not able to handle winter storms like this and yes, it could happen again. Every decade has seen some version of this. It was a horrific site as stranded people and cars littered the interstates and backroads of our city and surrounding areas. The laughter that began as others around the country guffawed at the South and our inability to handle 2” of snow, was dying down as those images were broadcast over the internet and on national TV. My Southern Hospitality Facebook group was mostly supportive and kind as I shared all of the above pics that I took with my iphone as I lived them, so thank you for that, even though it turned into a North/South commenting session that first day. We are all happy to be getting back to normal, with the sunshine out strong the last 2 days melting the ice and snow back to nothing again.
Today is a beautiful sunny day in the 60’s, which is amazing when we had temps in the teens just days ago and a mess on our hands. That’s the South for you, ever changing weather forecasts!
This is not something I would normally write about, but it really profoundly affected this city and I wanted to document it here on my blog while it’s a fresh topic, so that I can come back and read it 10 years from now. It’s been interesting to read all the stories that I’m seeing online on how everyone fared in this storm. I was one of the very fortunate ones, stranded in a really good place. So many others endured freezing weather, walking miles to get to shelter.
Here’s to Spring! I personally will really be savoring that season this year!