By Sharon Dunten, editor of SurvivingTimes.com
Relocating to Atlanta from Indiana two years ago, we love the warmer weather along with longer spring and fall seasons, but we were not ready for what happens in Georgia if true winter weather hits the South.
Winter is not the same as in northern and eastern states. Rarely does the temperature plummet down below 32 degrees. This year the freezing temperatures have been more frequent. It was just a matter of time until the moisture and the cold were going to collide and throw Atlanta and the rest of the south into turmoil.
Yesterday, Jan. 28, the snow started falling and ice quickly accumulated up to two inches on roadways. Within hours, an immeasurable track jam locked up all the interstates within the city of Atlanta and Georgia, along with the neighboring states of Alabama and South Carolina.
Early afternoon Atlanta businesses released employees from work, local schools deployed their school buses and the normal heavy traffic for the city merged onto the interstates and roadways. Very quickly most city and interstate traffic came to an abrupt halt.
For many people on the interstates, the thought of sleeping in their cars that evening was inconceivable. But they did sleep in their cars, and as of 10 a.m. on Jan. 29, truckers, drivers with their families had bunked down in their vehicles and waited for one of the 30 Atlanta plow trucks to spread a salt mixture to break up the roadway ice rink. Last night, many desperate motorists abandoned their vehicles and walked toward home or shelters.
Stories of children rescued from stalled school buses and one pregnant woman delivering a baby in a car in the traffic jam spread throughout the local media and CNN. More than 800 students spent the night at schools along with their teachers and administrators until parents could pick them up in the morning.
Even through the chaos of this ice storm, there were many acts of kindness including Home Depots keeping their stores opened for stranded motorists, and the Georgia National Guard handed out MREs to drivers marooned on the interstates. In addition, local residents living close to the interstates opened their doors to strangers. And when drivers’ cars ran out of gas, many cold drivers were welcomed into strangers’ cars to warm up and endure the jam for up to 12 hours.
Tomorrow the temperature will reach up to 40 degrees. The ice will melt and the traffic will flow back to the normal Atlanta congestion with longer-than-usual traffic patterns. But for Atlanta, that is the normal.