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Snowmageddon / Snowpocalypse / SnowJam in Atlanta on January 2014

Suzanna Travels no where: 21 hours to get home!

This is one event from my Fun / Crazy Events page.

What absolutely nobody was calling it, I can assure you, was    Leon.  

This despite the very best efforts of The Weather Channel, which for some reason last year decided it should    proactively name winter storms.   

For this year  s list it had some added help: Students in a Bozeman, Mont., high school Latin class came up with storm names drawn primarily from the pages of mythology.

2.6 inches of afternoon snow turns into:
Aparkalypse 2014                       Snowpeless                 Snowpocalypse                 Carmageddon             Stall-mate


CARnage            Implowsion 2014        Snow Snafu       Slow-slog     Snowjam      Snowzilla

 

             Gridlockalypse     Or there's the shorter, more Southern version: Gritslock

 

This is how I spent the night on Tuesday, January 28, 2014: 21 hours to get home

I leave work at 5:30. 

Six (6) hours later I had only driven ("slid" is a more accurate word)  5 miles down the road. 

Judy and Charlene called on my cell phone to let me know about open businesses helping stranded drivers.

I was low on gas, I pulled into the Publix parking lot. There were cars everywhere. 

I found a space to "park". Kill the engine, grab my coat and get out.

There was so much ice in the parking lot, my car started to slide towards a pickup truck. 

It was like a slow motion movie that you knew was not going to have a good ending. 

Voila!  Inches to spare, the SLIDE ended. Cars were not scratched, dented or merged.

I carefully walked to the OK Cafe.  We could sit and rest, but most important: use the bathrooms. 

I stayed all night.  I had a soft booth under the money tree.

I was comfortable and warm.  I slept off and on, about 5 hours. 

I woke up and all I saw was money!  And it wasn't a dream! 

Everyone was so nice. Sharing information, stories. 

We could see multiple cars being loaded onto carriers on the I-75 highway.

At noon we heard they were going to open the hiway for a couple hours.  At 12:30 I walked out to my car. 

I flagged down the guy on an ATV. I paid him $50 to put 5 gallons of gas in my car.

Then came the scariest part: start the engine and drive.

The on-ramp to I-75 was clear, I actually had a speed limit (55 MPH) drive on I-75. 

The Cumberland Blvd exit was jammed with stopped, wrecked, immoble cars that could not get up the hill. I kept driving.

Same with Windy Hill exit. Too many cars. Impossible to get to the road.  Keep driving.

I kept driving past those exits up to Delk Rd.  Exit Delk. Good decision. No problem on the exit ramp (one navicable lane).

I dodged cars, zig-zagged around stopped, vacated, wrecked cars.

Cars on the ditch. Cars perpendicular across the road. Drivers no where to be found. 

I finally made it to Austell Rd. Drive to Hurt Rd, but I was too scared to drive on Hurt Road.

I parked and walked the last mile to my house. Finally! Exhausted. Collapse.

Next morning,  some ice, ok to drive. Finally car and me are home safe and sound.  What an experience! 


 

This is what the Governor was doing that day:

 

This is where I spent the night in this booth:

 

I stayed all night.  I had a soft booth under the money tree. I was comfortable and warm and slept about 5 hours. 

I woke up and saw all that money and it wasn't a dream! 

  

 

 

This CVS store was in the same shopping center as the OK Cafe where I spent the night. 

We watched this guy refill his gas can many times at the station across from the OK Cafe. 

I paid $50 for 5 gallons of gas, so I could get home.

 

 

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Nearly 3,500 children across metro Atlanta were stranded in shelters Tuesday because they couldn  t get home, and their parents had no way to retrieve them.

Total number of residences and businesses in Georgia without power late Feb 13: about 262,000

Total number of residences and businesses without power at peak: 383,000

 

Estimated number of vehicles abandonded during the storm: 2000

Estimate of the total number of people affected by the outages: 1.6 million

Total number of residences and businesses affected by the power outage: more than 850,000


Storm was Tuesday. As of Friday, 100,000 remained without power.  
In the blizzard of 1993, 319,000 without power and it took 7 days to retore.

2 storm-related deaths


Feb 13, Thursday: More than 140 priority roadsand 100 priority bridges had been treated for snow and ice as of Thursday afternoon,

with 25 bridges and more than 50 routes receiving a second treatment.

Nearly 90 of those roadways and bridges were plowed by midday.

 

 

 

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Saturday, February 01, 2014; Section: Front Page, Page: A1
Reed defends his ride to interview as city idled

By Katie Leslie kleslie@ajc.com


For thousands of motorists who left downtown Atlanta Tuesday evening, traveling I-75 to the city limits took nearly a day.

For Mayor Kasim Reed and his support team, the drive was considerably shorter.

Hours before Reed would stand at a press conference with Gov. Nathan Deal to address a winter storm crisis, the mayor and a handful of staffers used emergency lanes to cruise to an interview with The Weather Channel, located just off the heart of the worst congestion at I-75 and I-285.

Reed spoke for about five minutes on the air. The quarter hour in which he appeared drew an average audience of 456,000 viewers, according to the network.

Rafael Garcia was among those idling on I-75 when Reed  s crew passed by. By that time, Garcia had been on the road four hours and would have eight to go before arriving home to Woodstock.

I think it's adding insult to a bad situation. The more I thought about this, the more upset I get in every respect,   said Garcia, who abandoned his car on the side of I-75 after it lost traction on the slippery roads. He hitched a ride with a stranger. And when he returned the next day to retrieve his car, it was gone, sending him on another odyssey to find it.

Garcia, who moved to Atlanta in 1984, was furious at what he sees as a lack of preparation for the storm from regional and state leaders.

Reed acknowledged Snow Jam 2014 cost him political damage but said, "I don't care about that. I care about the people being harmed.  "


 

Y'all hear the one about Atlanta?
Our pain has become big gain for late-night comics.

ByJill Vejnoska jvejnoska@ajc.com

Snow joking matter?

Snow what? The lords of late-night TV comedy weren  t about to let metro Atlanta get away completely unscathed from one of the worst weeks in its history that didn  t involve Gen. Sherman and a book of matches. The jokes crowded the airwaves like cars on I-285 during Gridlockalypse 2014.

Some wisecracks were about as weak as one of those unfortunate drivers trapped for 15 hours in a vehicle with nothing to eat and nowhere to pee.

Luckily, Jon Stewart could be counted on to come through as reliably as an ATV-riding Chipper Jones rescuing Freddie Freeman from the storm. The host of    The Daily Show   on Comedy Central devoted a five-minute Thursday segment    title:    South Parked      to hilariously poking holes in our elected officials   claims that the storm had taken the metro area by surprise. He didn  t let us unelected folks off the hook entirely, either.

 I know the last time anyone in Atlanta carpooled was this,   Stewart said, with a clip of Morgan Freeman  s character chauffeuring Jessica Tandy in    Driving Miss Daisy   flashing onscreen.    But this was an emergency!  

Here's some of this week  s other late-night laugh lines, along with links for watching:.

   Jimmy Kimmel,  Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=86l0IwsP6Lw


  º    One woman tweeted a photo of a group of people sleeping in a Home Depot. You know what they usually call it when you see someone sleeping in Home Depot? An employee.  

   Jay Leno,    The Tonight Show,   NBC. www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/video/monologue-part-1/n45739

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Surviving slow-slog Snowjam
A few insights gained from enduring a 13-hour commute home.

Personal reflections on this week  s traffic nightmare By Jennifer Brett jbrett@ajc.com


A guy marching up 285 in University of Michigan pajama bottoms, shouting commands at dawn, was the only authority figure I saw during our 13-hour commute home Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning.

   TAKE COBB PARKWAY!   We obeyed and finally got home.

Thanks, Michigan Man. Thanks for nothing, everyone whose job it is to deal with traffic and weather calamities. Gov. Nathan Deal at first called the state  s response    reasonable,   then later apologized and promised better response to future storms.

   We have learned some things from this last ice storm. We are going to make sure that those lessons are implemented in terms of preparation for future such events,   Deal said this week. Oh wait. He actually said that three years ago, following the January 2011 snow and ice event that, then as now, paralyzed Atlanta for days.

Charley English, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, engaged in similar backpedaling this week.    In this particular event, if we played it exactly the same again, I would have made the same decisions,   he said initially. By Thursday he had fallen on his sword, saying    I made a terrible error in judgment,   and promising that    In the future you can rest assured that when the forecasts change, there will be a much more aggressive response.  

Just before dawn, I went on air with my colleague Scott Slade, host of Atlanta  s Morning News on WSB. (The station and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, along with Channel 2, are all Cox Media Group properties.)    I usually write about movies,   I said during my call-in.    Today I  m starring in one, called   ˜Dude, Where  s My Car? Sitting on 285.    

This was 10 hours into our odyssey, and we had yet to clap eyes on any emergency vehicle. Shortly before I left the office, I heard an interview with a Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman on Channel 2 Action News. The spokeswoman told Channel 2  s Lori Geary that GDOT had learned from snowmageddons past, and her quote was something like,    We  ve been waiting three years to show how ready we are.   As I signed off with Scott, I wondered if it would take us three more to get home.

Just then, Mr. Michigan appeared, hollering about Cobb Parkway. Once we got there, our fortunes improved. Unlike 285, it was well sanded, although littered with abandoned cars. Before long, the sight of Marietta  s favorite landmark, the Big Chicken, literally brought tears to my eyes. In a few more minutes, we were home. Thirteen hours after we left.

So, what have I learned? Do not count on emergency assistance. Never did we ever see a single public safety official. Certainly no one from GDOT, which, remember, has been waiting three years to show everyone how ready they were. Mr. Michigan was the only one who came through for us.

 

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RECIPE FOR DISASTER

Evacuation: When no one led, no one moved
Storm  s gridlock raises concerns about emergency response.


By Johnny Edwards, Dan Chapman and Shannon McCaffrey

Last week  s snowstorm laid bare a $32.6 million state emergency management system incapable of dealing with a run-of-the mill weather event, much less a major disaster. Power to trigger that system rests with the governor, who waited hours to act. The same type of weather event has paralyzed the region time and again.

Since Tuesday  s snow storm, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters have been grilling public officials and poring through government documents, seeking answers as to why 2.6 inches of snow brought metro Atlanta to a standstill. For this story, a team of reporters interviewed state officials, county leaders, local police chiefs, emergency management experts and drivers who suffered through the traffic crisis. The reporters found that, ultimately, a failure at the highest levels of state government was to blame.

On Tuesday morning, Gov. Nathan Deal attended a tourism event at the state Capitol as weather-related crashes were being reported in northeast Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed attend a luncheon at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta honoring Reed. Outside the luxury hotel, snow was beginning to fall.

Gov. Nathan Deal  s delay in taking charge during Tuesday  s snow catastrophe triggered a series of cascading failures, leaving hundreds of thousands of motorists abandoned and desperate for food, water and shelter.

With no one at the helm, dozens of local agencies took their own myopic approaches, barely communicating with each other, much less the imperiled public.

The state  s multi-million dollar electronic sign system flashed useless messages at trapped drivers. The state  s mobile app, which is supposed to give up-to-the-minute updates on road conditions, gave wrong information about road clearing. Police stood by as cars blocked intersections. Calls to 911 were answered by an automated    all circuits are busy   message.

Consider it metro Atlanta  s slap in the face: Last week  s snowstorm laid bare a $32.6 million state emergency management system incapable of dealing with a run-of-the mill weather event, much less a major disaster. Power to trigger that system rests with the governor, who waited hours to act. No one else has both the legal and political muscle to take control.

Deal well knows what ice can do to Atlanta. He was inaugurated in a crippling ice storm in 2011, and the first executive order he signed declared a state of emergency for that storm. But state-level leaders failed to plan adequately for the same type of weather event that has paralyzed the region time and again.

Yet the governor would not sign a state of emergency until more than five hours later. By then, many were begging for someone to take command.


The increasing balkanization of the 10-county metro area no doubt compounded Tuesday  s mess. Ninety locally elected governments, with more on the drawing board, make it nearly impossible to effectively plan for a region-wide emergency, let alone react once a storm hits, critics say.

   It  s a regional problem. No one has taken a regional solution to solve it,   said Bill Byrne, former Cobb County Commission chairman.

 

 

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Journal-Constitution, Sunday, February 02, 2014; Section: Front Page, Page: A1

On own, drivers and teachers turn heroes
Frontline educators were left to make big decisions by selves.

By Carrie Teegardin cteegardin@ajc.com and Ty Tagami ttagami@ajc.com

Metro school superintendents blamed the weather forecast, the suddenness of the storm and, occasionally, themselves for Tuesday  s disaster of abandoned buses and stranded children. Culled from statements issued or comments uttered last week:

Jay Dillon, Cobb County schools spokesman

From an email to the AJC Wednesday: Based on the weather reports and other information we had late Monday night and into Tuesday morning, there was no reason for us to believe that a major weather event would impact the northern Atlanta suburbs the way it did... . Had the forecasts suggested that would take place, we would have canceled school.
    Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett

From an interview Thursday: We were discussing 4 a.m. in the morning [Tuesday] about the day, and we decided according to all reports we could get, we could get a day of school in... . The overwhelming majority of our students were home on time   [Gwinnett had comparatively few problems on Tuesday, as did DeKalb.]
      Stuart Gulley, president, Woodward Academy

Letter to school community Wednesday: I apologize. Words cannot express fully the deep regret I feel for the unimaginable horror so many members of our community experienced yesterday in their commute home. Hindsight is always much clearer, and from that perspective the decision to release at 1:40, even to have conducted school at all, was wrong... . We have (and will) learn lessons from yesterday  s episode.

Lin-Sheng Lee still had seven teenagers on his bus when he got stranded.
Little heat on the bus. Eighteen degrees outside. Stuck in the dark on the on-ramp from Ashford-Dunwoody to I-285: no cops, no rescue, no options.
Three hours come and go. About 10:30 p.m., three young people emerge from the dark and tap on the bus door.    We have food,   they say. Lee replies,    Oh my God   and gratefully accepts the candy bars and water.

Midnight: still no rescue. The kids are tired, hungry and desperate for a bathroom. The cold is just getting worse.

School districts in metro Atlanta made the spectacularly bad decision to open on Tuesday    a fateful call that meant the central offices were disconnected from key decisions made Tuesday evening. Instead, life-and-death decisions about children fell to people like Lin-Sheng Lee the bus drivers, principals, teachers and school staff, all pushed into impossible and sometimes terrifying quests to return students to their families.

That no children died or were even seriously hurt is testament to the caring and resourcefulness of those frontline workers    and reflects no small amount of luck. TEN THOUSAND children in Atlanta, Fulton, Cobb, Cherokee, Douglas and Marietta had not made it home as of 9 p.m. Tuesday. At Marietta High School, culinary arts students took to the kitchen and cooked for stranded classmates. Contrast that with Atlanta, where cooks at the city jail prepared food for some of the stranded kids and police delivered it. Scores of buses, including about 80 in Atlanta alone, were abandoned on the roads.

The driver stayed with him all night.

The number of children stranded was highest in Fulton County: 3,145, of which 239 spent the night on buses. At south Fulton  s Westlake High School, cafeteria manager Henry Smith made it home but then decided to walk back to school in the snow. He prepared 800 dinners and then 450 breakfasts.

In North Fulton, Centennial High normally has 50 buses. On Tuesday, only five made it to the school. Some drivers struggled through traffic even to get to the bus yard. Then it took them hours to get to the school, if they made it at all. At one point, administrators decided to allow some kids to walk home. The few buses that did arrive packed students on, even those not on their regular routes, and tried to get them as close to their homes as possible.

But there were still more kids than bus seats, and it became clear that some students would not make it home. That included close to 30 special-needs students. Some in wheelchairs. Some with medication needs. Others with special diets.

Teachers and staff took sheets and blankets from the school  s health care occupation program and sanitized gym mats so the students would have a place to sleep. They walked through the snow to pick up 50 pizzas at a nearby shop that was open. They also trekked to a nearby Kroger to collect emergency prescriptions.

When cell phone service was not jammed, the staff called parents to check in and texted photos home to give some comfort.

I know how these parents feel,   said Diane Nadler, a paraprofessional who works with special needs kids and chose to stay the night to help.    I  d do what I want someone to do for my child.  

Having to figure it out on our own.

Teachers and drivers with children in their care figured out solutions on the fly wherever they found themselves. The hard part, for some, was the sense that they had no backup, no matter how bad things got.

Around midnight, Lin-Sheng Lee got another knock on his bus door. It was the same three youths who had brought snacks hours earlier, back with more food.

Soon, Lee got the call he  d been waiting for: the DeKalb County police were nearby.

They couldn  t reach the bus, and he was instructed to walk with his charges back up the ramp. Up they trudged. Lee, 65, was worried until he saw the flashing blue lights. The best part of the rescue, he said, was that    the car was warm.  

The police took them to the school district police headquarters on Memorial Drive, where they got meals and rest. Then, Lee accompanied the police to direct them to the teenagers   homes. He didn  t get them home on the bus, but he got them home. The ordeal ended after daybreak.

Lee said people thanked him for staying with the kids, but he said he was just doing his job. He was just thankful to the three youths who appeared bearing food.    Those persons really nice,   he said,    because that  s not their job.  

Officials already faced instant criticism of not canceling school in the first place. Now in a system where 75 percent of students ride the bus, officials were telling parents   “ many of whom were stuck in gridlock   “ they had to come pick up their children at school.

At 4 p.m. nearly 5,000 of the district  s 8,800 students were still at school, and administrators were told to begin preparations to, as the emergency plans call it, shelter in place.  

We knew there would be parents who would be very, very upset that we could not deliver their children,   Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck said.    We had absolute heroes working in our schools.  

At 6 p.m. Hickory Hills Elementary principal Kristen Beaudin still had about 250 of her school  s 487 students. While teachers began cooking spaghetti for the students-turned-refugees, Beaudin started calling nearby parents for help.

Within hours the school had so many blankets and pillows that some were sent to comfort students at other schools. Area families, including Marietta  s mayor and a former school board member, brought hot dishes of food for students and teachers.


A parent with a 4-wheel-drive Jeep ferried children down an icy slope from the school to parents waiting a few blocks away. A cache of about 100 donated jackets were distributed to children not dressed for the rugged weather.

I've never been more honored to be the principal of Hickory Hills,   Beaudin said.

Across town at Marietta High School, students in the culinary arts program served dinner to about 700 stranded students and staff.

They need a little rest as well,   but . . .

Teachers did everything they could think of to keep children comfortable.

 

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Journal-Constitution, Saturday, February 15, 2014; Section: World & Nation, Page: A4
Winter-weary Northeast hit again
Up to 22 inches in Pennsylvania; South waits for power.


By Kathy Matheson and MaryClaire Dale Associated Press

Pennsylvanians were coping with the aftermath of a major winter storm Friday, digging out from a deep coating of fresh snow while many businesses and schools remained shuttered. More snow was in the forecast.

The National Weather Service said the state  s deepest snow was recorded in the Bedford-Somerset county area, where up to 22 inches fell. More than 20 inches fell in parts of Chester County, west of Philadelphia

Major roadways were generally clear, but there were slick conditions. Two major pileups and smaller fender-benders involving tractor-trailers and scores of cars blocked one side of an ice-coated Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia, injuring at least 30 people and tying up traffic for hours. The pileup occurred just two hours after the turnpike canceled weather-related speed limits.

In the South, the longest-lasting effect of this weeks ice and snow storm was power.

About 1.2 million utility customers from the South to Northeast lost power at some point. That dramatically dropped to about 465,000 outages by Friday morning, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia. The numbers did keep dropping, but life without electricity after a third day was becoming a hassle.

With roads finally thawed out, many in the hardest hit areas were able to finally leave their homes. But there weren  t too many places to go. Few stores were open because they didn  t have power, either.

 

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Nearly 3,500 children across metro Atlanta were stranded in shelters Tuesday because they couldn  t get home, and their parents had no way to retrieve them.

Total number of residences and businesses in Georgia without power late Feb 13: about 262,000

Total number of residences and businesses without power at peak: 383,000

Estimated number of vehicles abandonded during the storm: 2000

Estimate of the total number of people affected by the outages: 1.6 million

Total number of residences and businesses affected by the power outage: more than 850,000

 

Storm was Tuesday. As of Friday, 100,000 remained without power.  
In the blizzard of 1993, 319,000 without power and it took 7 days to retore.

2 storm-related deaths

Feb 13, Thursday: More than 140 priority roadsand 100 priority bridges had been treated for snow and ice as of Thursday afternoon,

with 25 bridges and more than 50 routes receiving a second treatment.

Nearly 90 of those roadways and bridges were plowed by midday.

 

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