- Posted January 31, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Winter weather 2014
Walking on the Interstate in Downtown Atlanta
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
I left work at 1pm in Alpharetta, Georgia thinking I was leaving early ahead of rush hour traffic. Little did I know that a normal 1-1.5 hour commute back home to Atlanta would last until 1:30pm the next day! I started to worry when the usual 2 minute drive on my office street took 45 minutes. Then I was stuck again in a traffic jam on 400 basically sitting the entire time moving inches it seemed every 15 minutes or so. I had skipped lunch and I ate an entire bag of veggie chips while I was in the car.
By the time I exited 400 and reached 85 South, I found out the cause for the traffic jam. Interstate 85 had turned into one massive skating rink with ice so thick you could barely make out the lines separating the lanes. There were 2 tractor trailers that had jackknifed on the road, cars slipping and sliding on the icy road, and delivery trucks scattered every which way, just sitting there it seems like they gave up. I slowly and carefully maneuvered my little Scion tc around them closer to downtown Atlanta. That's when panic started to set in. The roads barely had any cars on them, it was dark, the temperature was in the teens, and my cell phone battery was down to 10% due to thoughtful and concerned friends, family, and co-workers calling and sending texts.
It was around 10th/14th Street when I got stuck and my tires kept spinning. I couldn't move forward. I found out that if I reversed my car backwards, I could move closer to the right side of the interstate. I tried to get as close as I could to the right side, but cars were starting to pile up behind me. I was stuck again and I couldn't do anything but sit there helplessly and wait for people to move. People started coming out of their cars to use cardboard boxes to put under their tires, I saw 2 people jumping on the bed of a truck to keep it from getting stuck on the ice. People were pushing against other cars to slide their car to the side. I saw a huge truck "push" a car in front of it so it could move forward. Numerous cars were pressing on their accelerators, but going nowhere and you could hear the sounds of their cars' wheels futile attempts to gain traction on the ice. Cars and tractor trailers were slowly moving and sliding on the road inches from my car. I was praying that they wouldn't hit my car or even worse, that I wouldn't get crushed in between 2 trucks.
Finally, after sitting there for an hour with a dead cell phone, a group of kind strangers helped me push/slide my car to the emergency lane. From where I was sitting, I saw a Marriott Courtyard on Techwood Drive. I thought it would be better to see if I can walk over there to get a room rather than attempt to make the few miles back home on icy roads and potentially get stuck again. I was wearing a skirt and high heel boots and I started to slip on the iced roads. One of the 2 ladies who had abandoned their car behind me offered to give me a pair of her UGG boots so I can walk across the street safely. One of the strangers who helped pushed my car to the side of the road offered to drive me to the hotel on his 4 wheel drive SUV. It was a short walk there, so instead he helped carry me over the median that separated the interstate from the road, carried and handed over my laptop bag and handbag to me.
After climbing over a guardrail and slowly walking on the slippery road, I arrived at the hotel near midnight. I asked for a room, but they were overbooked so I asked if I could stay in the lobby to stay warm and they said that I was welcome to. I wasn't alone as there were about 30 people in there stranded and in the same situation I was in. I started talking to others who described the same ordeal I encountered that night. Fortunately, a few rooms became available and I was able to take a hot shower and finally rest. When I awoke in the morning, I could see a line of parked cars on the side of the interstate and considered myself blessed and fortunate for getting stuck near a hotel.
There seemed to be a few more cars out on the interstate around 1pm so I decided to take a chance to drive the few miles back home. A news reporter saw me going over the guardrail and interviewed me for a few minutes, helped me over the huge median and then assisted me in pushing my car away from the ice. The interstate roads had improved a bit, so I decided to take the next exit, North Ave and the back roads, North Ave to Ponce de Leon to Moreland and Hosea Williams to go back home. Along the way, I saw numerous people walking on the streets and scattered, dented cars abandoned by their owners. By 1:30pm I was safe at home!
After watching the news and hearing from a co-worker recount the night being stuck in their car on 285 and hearing about my manager getting stuck in his truck in Roswell with his baby and seeking shelter at Kroger, I considered myself one of the more fortunate ones. Even more so, I was amazed and humbled by the kindness shown by absolute strangers in a time of chaos and distress. Despite what I've been hearing on the news about the city of Atlanta, I am proud to live in a city where amidst a time of crisis, strangers acted in kindness.