- Posted January 29, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Wintry weather 2014
Atlanta's Weather “Disaster” 2014
- sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer
My journey started two miles south from I-20 exit 36 (Chapel Hill Road in Douglasville, GA) at 17:30. Once I reached the interstate, I noticed that with the exception of a few vehicles coming by every few minutes, the interstate was a ghost town in both the east and west bound directions. I headed east bound on I-20 towards exit 44 (Thornton Road). My wife left work at around 12:45 and reach the west bound ramp of I-20 exit 44 in no time, however, it took her over 4 hours to get on the interstate. Once I reached exit 37 (Fairburn Road) the traffic was backed up on the east bound lanes. The west bound lanes continued with just a few vehicles every few minutes.
As there were very few vehicles traveling on the west bound lanes and traffic was backed up on the east bound lane, I figured that the cause of the traffic chaos was between exit 37 and 41 (Fairburn Rd & Lee Rd). I was right.
On the east bound lane and about 1.5 miles from exit 41 there’s a steep uphill where ice had accumulated. At the bottom of the hill there was one GA State Trooper officer directing one vehicle at a time via his patrol vehicle load speaks. If a vehicle would start sliding on the ice or got stuck, the next vehicle in line to go up the hill had to wait for the situation to clear before it could proceed. The east bound lane was clear of traffic to at least exit 44 after the above mentioned jam.
Once I was approximately 3/4 of a mile from exit 41, I could see the cause of the west bound lane traffic jam. Just after the under path of the exit another steep uphill started and car, trucks and 18 wheelers were sliding and wrecking everywhere.
On the west bound lane and about 200 yards or less away from exit 41, there was a snow plow equipped with sand or salt, it was approximately 19:45 at this time and it was hard to see what it was carrying. The snow plow was just sitting there on the side of the road with its lights on and not doing anything. The truck was there to at least 21:30 as I saw it leaving the area as my wife and I where making our way on foot from her car to our neighbors car.
I reached my wife at 20:25, who by the time had reached the 1 mile from exit 41 sign which is just 1 mile away from exit 44 where she got on the interstate.
I got in my wife’s car and provided her with a few items (water, boots, and some extra winter gear just in case we had to leave the car) I had brought with me in a backpack.
At around 20:45, after resting my body and moving not even an inch, we decided to leave our car on the side of the interstate and make our way to our neighbor’s car who was just one half mile in front of us.
We did so and during our 25 minute walk, traffic might have moved 1/8 of a mile. Once we reached our neighbor’s car, I saw the snow plow leaving the area without doing anything to the roads as I mentioned above.
After waiting approximately 45 minutes in our neighbor’s car and seriously contemplating also abandoning the neighbor’s car and walking, traffic started to move and we were able to try to make the steep incline just past exit 41. There was no state or local officials anywhere to be seen and people just took turns on their own and with the assistance of other motorist who were already stranded and started to help others navigate round the vehicles that were in the middle and shoulder of the interstate.
By the grace of God we made it over the steep hill and were able to drive all the way to exit 36, get off and park the car about 1.5 miles from our homes. We decided to walk the rest of the way as we had to drive up and down a another steep hill to get home which had more than 20 wrecked and stranded vehicles at the time that I walked by there at the start of my journey, 17:30.
Once again by the grace of God we made it home at 23:15 or so.
Now, I strongly believe that all of this could have been minimized if the state and local governments had been more proactive on conditioning the roads after the snow started to fall.
At my house, snow started falling at around 11:00 or so, by the time (12:45) that I headed to get my kids from daycare, I was already sliding all over the place and I had not even left the housing complex. That’s when I decided to drive back home and walk to get my kids.
During my walk to get my kids and my wife, I saw vehicles (both trucks and passengers) with chains on their tires and they were able to drive without any issues. Also, sand had been dropped on one of the main roads leading to my housing complex and it had broken down the ice and the road was drivable. It was just 2.5 inches of snow and the ice buildup was less than an inch.
During a press conference on Wed morning Jan 29th, GA Governor said that he did not know how bad it was going to be. How is it that I (a regular citizen) knew that at least snow was coming? That’s because the local news had been telling us since Mon Jan 27th. But the GA Governor decided to listen to national reports which said that the storm (snow) would miss Atlanta all together. So, instead of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best he decided to do the opposite. During the same press conference, I believe it was the State Emergency Manager said that roads were not that bad at 15:00. Really!? Tell that to my wife!
Another observation; we have a weather radio and it never went off during the entire time. The radio started advising (twice) about the weather conditions on Wed Jan 29th at 12:00 or so. That’s too late.
Proactive actions like dropping salt or sand on the roads once it started to snow would have prevented a lot of the chaos.
Another piece to the issue puzzle was that most employers decided to release their employees virtually at the same time, 12:00 to 13:00. This must have added 4 times or more the number of vehicles to the roads then there would normally be.
This might sound like a rambling person’s email, but it was a bit frustrating listening to our state and local government leaders talk like if they had no idea what they were doing. And it’s more frustrating when we just went thru a similar scenario just three years ago, Jan 2011. It shows that we did not learn anything.