Atlanta snow is not something we typically fret about, at least not until the Atlanta snow storm of 2014. The city was paralyzed, unprepared, and stuck. But for Southerners, out of adversity comes the best of us.
We are the South.
In the last week, we have been blinded and stranded by a winter Atlanta snow storm, forever to be known as Snowpocalypse Atlanta or Snowmageddon Atlanta.
We have spent hours in cars on the interstate in below freezing temperatures. We have walked miles just to get to warm shelter.
We’ve had children stranded on school buses and sleeping in their schools. We’ve had babies born on the side of the road.
We have second guessed our decisions with the clarity of hindsight.
Bless their hearts.
We are the South. We are flawed, that is a given. We are imperfect and we’ve made some bad calls in the last week—and we are responsible for the circumstances in which we found ourselves.
But, here’s the thing. We are so much more than what is portrayed on the news. We are a people full of love, compassion, forgiveness, prayers, warmth, and big hugs.
We are who you want surrounding you when something bad happens.
We are the ones who get on church buses or grab friends to carpool and travel hundreds of miles to help out after Hurricane Sandy, or the Joplin tornado, or any other disaster that has befallen our fellow citizens elsewhere in the country.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
–Jesus (Matthew 25: 35-40)
And in the last week, we’ve displayed that love and compassion on a grand scale.
We have opened our homes to complete strangers.
We have walked up and down ice-covered highways to hand out food.
We have traversed miles carrying hot chocolate to stranded motorists.
We have shared our last pair of gloves or blanket from our car.
We have picked up strangers and given them a ride.
We have had a doctor walk six miles in the snow and ice to perform emergency surgery.
We have pushed cars, towed trucks, and rescued friends.
We have ventured out of our warm homes back into the cold to find someone we could help.
We have changed flat tires and delivered much needed gasoline to folks.
We have lifted an 8-months pregnant woman over the median of an interstate to get her to safety.
We have attached chains to the van of a handicapped couple to get them off the road and then found a place for them to rest.
We have taken neighbors in our trucks to pick up their children.
We have opened churches and businesses to take in the cold, weary people.
We have made sandwiches and coffee and distributed them to hungry strangers.
We have taken kitty litter, salt, and shovels out to help those who were stuck.
We have spent the night in schools with children who could not get home.
We have rescued pets and kept them safe and warm.
We have provided warm blankets and soft pillows and hot showers to people whom we had never met before but are now friends.
We are the South. We take care of our own. And you can laugh at us or criticize us but when a disaster strikes in your community…we will come take care of you too.
My personal story of Atlanta Snow Jam 2014:
We frequently have snow forecasts in Atlanta and so often they turn out to be incorrect that we have developed a bit of a “oh, it’s not going to happen” mentality.
And so when the forecasters started spreading the doom and gloom for Atlanta snow that week in January 2014, we half-listened and went about our business.
On Tuesday morning, I had a previously scheduled hair appointment and doctor’s appointment, both scheduled early enough that if we did, in fact, get the forecasted snow I should be back home and toasty in front of the fire.
That is not what happened.
As I was sitting in the chair getting my hair colored, my husband called to say that he was driving home from Cartersville, about 30 minutes north of us, and already getting snow. He said I should head home.
I had foils in my hair so that was not a possibility at the moment. And it wasn’t even snowing where I was.
An hour later, this was the parking lot scene—a good two hours or so before they had predicted any snow would start falling.
And the thing to know if you’re not from around here, is that even when we do get snow it typically takes hours—or a whole day—before we start seeing any accumulation on the roads.
So usually if you’re out when the snow starts and you head home you don’t have any problems. The roads are usually the last place to see any accumulation.
That is not what happened.
As I turned on the street, I could tell that it was going to take a while to get home. There were already cars abandoned that had run off the side of the road—and the snow had been falling less than an hour where I was. The problem was that it was as much or more ice than snow and it was quickly accumulating on the roads.
With the forecasts we had been seeing, you would think that at least some schools would have been cancelled, and some folks smarter than I would have planned ahead and either stayed home from work or school or even stayed AT work until the afternoon.
That is not what happened.
Apparently every single person in the metro Atlanta area left where ever they happened to be to drive home ALL AT THE SAME TIME. On icy, snow-covered roads.
Without snow tires. Without 4-wheel drive in most cases. Without blankets or boots or any of those items that people who do this sort of thing all the time would have in their cars.
We were completely unprepared.
And so this happened.
This is where I sat for several hours as cars inched up and then down this hill. I finally made it to the next street over. After about six hours, I REALLY had to go to the restroom and it just so happened that I was directly across from a gas station.
But I couldn’t leave my car just idling in the middle of the road.
Then I saw my friend Jim at the gas station. So I called him and he came and sat in my car, driving it the few feet that traffic moved while I was inside. Then we proceeded onward toward home.
After a few more hours and consultation with friends who had been a few miles ahead of me, I decided I had to leave my car somewhere. There were too many hills before my house, it was dark, and there was no way I was going to make it home.
My friend Rita had been on the road ahead of me all day and our friend Tracy had been ahead of both of us on the same road—fortunately we all had plenty of gas and phone chargers. We all lived within a few miles of each other.
Rita and I left our cars at a restaurant nearby and her husband Ray came and picked us up in his big four-wheel drive pickup truck. Jim was also able to walk to our meeting spot so we grabbed him too. Then we went to get Tracy, who had to walk a couple of miles to meet us.
Fortunately she was much more prepared and actually did at least have rain boots in her car.
It occurred to us that we had no food so we stopped at a convenience store and bought cans of tomato soup, beer, and crackers. We dropped off Jim close to his house, which also happened to be on the way to Rita and Ray’s house.
But the ride home was slippery and dangerous and Ray said that’s as far as we could go. Tracy and I were not getting home that night.
So Ray built us a fire and we settled in and made doctored-up canned tomato soup and drank really good wine that Rita had stashed away. She even had extra pajamas for us!
We had a fun little slumber party that we’ll always remember.
The next day, our friends Robbie and Janice were able to come pick us up and take us home. Along the way, we passed many abandoned, stuck, or wrecked vehicles.
All in all, it took Tracy and me more than 24 hours to get home during Snowmageddon 2014. And we were some of the lucky ones.
And you can bet that forever after, when there is potential snow in the forecast, I am sitting in my house in front of the fire and not going ANYWHERE.