Winter madness in Atlanta

My brother went out today to try and jump cars for people. He took this picture on the side of I-285 where he was trying to jump the white car.  FRANK ABBAMONTE
My brother went out today to try and jump cars for people. He took this picture on the side of I-285 where he was trying to jump the white car.

It has been cold here in Arkansas, but at least I was able to get to work today.

Friends in and around my hometown of Alpharetta, Ga. are not so lucky. The Atlanta area got some winter weather yesterday and people were lucky to get home last night. I don't know if it was because everyone got on the roads at the same time (the Atlanta metro area has a population of around 5.5 million people) or because local governments were not ready for the ice and snow, but things got really bad really fast.

I have one friend who was in the car for six and a half hours to get home. Her commute is usually one hour.

Another friend had to leave her car at a city park and walk a mile home. From what I can see on Facebook and Atlanta news sources, one mile is definitely a short walk compared to what some people had to walk to get to shelter.

Students had to stay in schools overnight all across the metro area because buses couldn't get out and their parents couldn't get to the schools. Home Depot stores, grocery stores and community centers served as temporary sleeping quarters for those who couldn't get home. A lot of my friends had family members whose phones died and were stranded. 

Unfortunately, crime is going to be a problem that surfaces once police are able to respond to calls that don't involve the massive traffic issues. 

My brother is a do-gooder. He was at his apartment when everything froze, and last night he walked around to see if anyone needed help. He stumbled upon an older woman who was screaming that her car had been stolen. Apparently someone was "helping her out of a ditch" and drove off in her car. 

My brother called the police and stayed with the woman. Four hours later, the thief returned to the area. The police came and arrested him, but he had already totaled the woman's car on the highway. The woman stayed in my brother's apartment because there was no way for her to get anywhere else.

A couple months ago I talked to the school superintendents in Faulkner County about what it takes to close schools because of weather. One of them told me declaring a snow day is one of his hardest decisions — if you don't have school and it doesn't snow, people get mad. But if you have school and the roads get bad later, people get mad (and kids could be in danger).

If schools had been closed in the Atlanta area yesterday, things might be a little different. There wouldn't be pictures of children huddled on exercise mats in the school gym for the night. Buses and parents wouldn't have been out trying to get kids home. 

I don't know why Atlanta-area superintendents made the decisions they made yesterday, but I know it's never an easy one. Next time our schools take a snow day — even if the weather turns out to be better than they thought it would be — I'm going to think about this mess in Atlanta and be thankful that decision does not land on my shoulders. 

  • Comment
Comments (4) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
greddin 01/29/14 - 11:14 am
Forecasting a winter storm in

Forecasting a winter storm in the south is an inexact science. Here in central AR a 50 mile difference in the track of a storm can mean the difference between rain or snow - or the difference between half an inch vs. 4 inches of snow. It also matters how fast the cold air spills in and the forecast models don't always handle that well. Forecasters have a difficult job to know how much to "hype" a storm forecast. They don't want to over or under-sell it because people will stop listening to them.

My understanding is that it was similarly uncertain whether Atlanta would get hit hard or not. Most folks didn't see it getting that bad until it started getting that bad. Here in the south, if there's a chance for snow, we should be prepared for the worst. That will ensure that we get completely missed :-)

Angela Spencer
Angela Spencer 01/29/14 - 01:00 pm
I agree

It's so hard to predict what will happen when winter weather comes to the South! In a metro area like Atlanta — or Little Rock, on a smaller scale — it might be wise to have some kind of staggered exit plan when storms like this come around. I read somewhere where Georgia Gov. Deal said things were gridlocked within 20 minutes because everyone were trying to leave at once.

I do know, however, that it usually rains when I forget my umbrella and is sunny when I remember it. So maybe there's truth in the idea to prepare for the worst in order to make sure it passes us over :-)

Budnmud 01/29/14 - 03:38 pm
In any case

I predict empty shelves where bread and milk used to be.....

lachowsj 01/29/14 - 08:25 pm

I watched NBC news tonight and the Georgia governor and Atlanta mayor both blamed the inexact forecast for their lack of preparedness. Then Al Roker came on and showed that the snow forecast was initially south of Atlanta but changed Monday to include Atlanta. Later the predicted amount of snow increased. More than 8 hours before snow began the National Weather Service nailed the amount exactly. So it looks like the blame should go to the state, city and school decision makers for the big mess.

Back to Top