Snow Jam Atlanta 2014

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!  Smile

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.

snowfall starting

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.

car stranded

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.

roads freezing

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.

walking in snow

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.

lori's house

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!

my house in snow

There’s no place like HOME!

285-59

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.

285-64

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.

18152654

doug moon heroes of hammond drive

285-26

langford19

firetruck

gridlock10

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.

gridlock13

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.

gridlock75

langford4

langford10

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.

thornton1

thornton3

thornton19

abandoned cars

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!

- Rhoda

Comments

  1. Hey Rhoda
    I live in Savannah and for 3 days on the local news all I heard was about being prepared for the ” blizzard conditions” that’s heading our way. We were lucky we didn’t get hit as bad as y’all did in fact when I woke up to put my dogs out I was expecting to have snow on the ground or at least be snowing, were I live I had freezing rain and had icicles on my house. I’m from South Florida I get cold when it goes below 70, I have lived in Savannah now for 9 yrs, so I didn’t venture out anywhere for a few days, but to make fun of us down here was a little too much, I mean I didn’t laugh at the “Yankees” when they weren’t prepared for Hurricane Sandy I felt for them because I too lost my house in Florida due to hurricanes Francis & Jeanne and is how I ended up here in beautiful Savannah.

    • I love Savannah something serious! Jealous that you get to live there! I’m in Florida and get cold sometimes below 80 degrees, lol.

      Don’t you think though that “Yankees” are from the Northeast? I’m originally from the Northeast and have only ever heard people from that region referred to as Yankees. Mostly only in history books too. I didn’t see many from that area mocking the snow (on Facebook). Most seemed to be from the mid-west. We are getting pummeled with mid-westerners here in FL this season and it’s nothing but rudeness. Never seen anything like it down here before this.

  2. Hi Rhoda, Thanks for documenting your storm. I am so glad to hear that you were able to get to a friend’s house for those two days. I prayed for the people down your way after seeing the scary pictures on the news up here in Wisconsin. We are pretty used to driving in snow but nobody I know likes ice storms….they make it difficult for everybody. Since I retired, I choose to not go out and drive when we are having a snow storm. I had to do that for too many years….now I can watch the snow fall from inside my house! It’s been a weird year for winter weather thru out the country…we are now in the midst of the longest cold snap I can remember, with propane dealers cautioning us to conserve fuel so nobody runs out of it to heat our homes. Dear Lord, please send spring soon???????????

  3. So true! I live in VA and am so tired of hearing friends from UT, etc complain about our snow days. We get ICE and it’s super dangerous. I can’t imagine what that would have done in the South where you don’t have ANY equipment. There was recently a story in UT where 26 cars were involved in a crash on one mile of highway. Why? Because they got ICE! It doesn’t matter who you are or how well you supposedly drive in snow, ICE is a whole different story and no one can drive in it.

  4. ~Rhoda~ I’m glad you and your loved ones are safe !
    Greetings from northern Indiana, I did not hear anyone here laughing about the snow/ice in the south.
    Its one thing to drive on snow, but ICE is a different story, and when roads become dangerous it is not a laughing matter that is for sure! There was 3 killed in a 40 trucks/cars pile up Michigan/Chicago area and thank the Lord it could have been so much worse. I just keep thinking this weather will be bringing us all a beautiful spring ! 🙂
    Be Safe
    Paula
    IN.

  5. Thanks for all the pictures. We will enjoy them years later, I think. Realizing from your post how close in proximity we are to each other. Luckily I was home when the storm occurred waiting for my little man to get home from school. I had a dentist appointment that morning and never dreamed it would be so bad. Driving a short way home was crazy. My husband was stuck at work until 3 in the morning then was able to drive home…we have a 4 wheel drive truck and he said roads were isolated of people but hundreds and hundreds of cars, busses, delivery vans and trucks were all over the roads. Thrilled to see all the comments and especially the kind words expressed. We should just be looking out for each other and not making fun of their difficulties. Glad you and your parents are safe.

  6. Oh, my! My SIL and her boys live in Georgia, so I was watching what was happening down there with extra apprehension. They were all safe, but I really felt for those stranded in that storm. How frightening! It sounds as if you were very lucky to have a good friends to help you out. I would have been a basket case!

  7. I am from Ontario, Canada and I can say that just looking at those pictures, I would have been very nervous driving too! We get this situation often during the winter. When the snow starts to come and the roads are not prepared then the snow starts to freeze on the road because of all of the cars driving over it. Scary situation. Thankfully, we are prepared. Glad to hear that you got off the roads and stayed safe!

  8. Best response to those Yankees who ridiculed us last week after our 2″ of hell:
    Stop criticizing how we handle snow and ice. It’s rare down here. Kinda like
    winning a BCS Championship up there.

  9. Dear Rhoda, I follow your blog and really enjoy how refreshing and motivating it is. I do not follow your Facebook page so I don’t know what was said. I am thankful you are safe and well. I live in Idaho and have all my life. After 53 years I realize I still am afraid to drive in bad weather conditions. Yikes some might call me a fraidy cat at times. Looking forward to reading more great decorating ideas from you. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Trust me, there are a lot of New Englanders who don’t know how to drive in snow and/or ice. You would think we’d know better, but bad road conditions are very unpredictable. There have been many occasions when the state, major corporations and other businesses released their employees at the same time here in CT. Highways and secondary roads turned into parking lots and many people abandoned their vehicles. The state is always prepared and our DOT guys do a great job. But Mother Nature seems to always have the final say. I’m glad your ordeal is over. We on the other hand are preparing for the week’s second storm. I have already decided to stay put all day.

  11. Glad you’re okay! We’ve been in Wake Forest, NC for almost 5 years now. Prior to that we lived in northern Ohio for 8 years. We know how to drive on snow and ice. It’s fun for northerners to poke fun at the South because it’s the only thing to do in the winter. 🙂 My sister has had a record number of snow days this year, in a county that usually only has one or two. I will say this about us in the South though, we sure can handle a hurricane well. 🙂

  12. Hi,
    I live in London, ON Canada (SW Ontario). Yes, we are used to snow. This winter has been the worst, though. For the past several years the winters have gradually been getting colder and with much more snow than we’re used to. These are the types of winters I remember as a kid (50 or so years ago). Basically, what I getting to is that even though we are used to winters (more or less) with all the changes in our winters people have forgotten how to drive.
    I don’t care where anyone is: ice is ice. And it is the worst. Can’t get up hills and coming down you’re sliding all the way. Add to that inexperience with that type of weather you had and it’s lucky there weren’t some fatalities.
    It is heart-warming to hear of all the stories of how people helped. All we here these days is how unfriendly (generally) people have become. They don’t want to become involved. It’s too bad it takes a situation such as this to bring out the good in people. It’s nice to know there are still some great people out there.
    Thank you for your post. It was a great indicater of what you all went through. Glad to know you and your family were safe and sound.
    All the best,
    Cathy

  13. Thanks for posting this. I invite anyone who thinks they can drive on hilly roads covered in ice to slide a mile in our shoes. You’ve done a good job of addressing what makes it different here.

    Imagine the reverse…heat in the North that can’t compare to what we deal with down here on a regular basis and they don’t have the tools to deal with it. No, wait, you don’t have to imagine it, because it just happened in Chicago last year. I don’t recall the entire country mocking them for this: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?id=9241806 But, Southerners are always so much more fun (and politically correct) to ridicule, aren’t we?

  14. Rhoda, I was stuck in Atlanta in 93. I was there for the gift mart and that storm hit and we couldn’t do anything. Our hotel ran out of food and we were stuck there for 3 days and then headed home and we live
    in Ohio. It is no laughing matter when you get stuck like that. We had to find and alternate route home because there were places on 75 that weren’t passable. When this happened in Atlanta this year my heart was hurting for them. It doesn’t matter where you are from, when that type of weather hits you are at the mercy of others until it lets up. I did hear people talking about Atlanta and I let them know until it happens to them they have no idea what it’s like. I am glad you were able to go to your friends and be safe and warm.

Trackbacks

  1. […] ~The Snow Jam in Atlanta and why it was no laughing matter by the gracious Rhoda of Southern Hospita… […]

  2. […] at Southern Hospitality Blog posted a take on the Great Atlanta Snow-Jam of 2014 and included photos of some of the worst of the traffic jams and snarl […]

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.