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.