I’ve lived in Georgia just about all my life, and I’ve been commuting to Atlanta since I started college back in 2001. That said, I don’t think anybody really knew just how bad things were going to get when Snow Storm 2014 struck on Tuesday.
I woke up around 4:00 that morning to check the weather so I could decide whether or not I should take the hour long commute in to work that day. After seeing that my county was going to be heavy hit (relatively speaking of course, to most places north of us, 2-3″ of snow is nothing), I told my boss that I wanted to work from home because I was concerned about getting home after work as the snow came in. I was very lucky that I could make this decision and that my boss supported it. Little did I know at the time that my co-workers really should have been doing the same thing.
I-75 Traffic Jam due to Ice – Warning: Graphic view of a multi-car accident.
My social media feed was flooded with friends who were fighting the traffic despite the odds. One friend not only had to navigate around abandoned vehicles in the middle of the road, but also had to get out and push his car through ice patches. Yesterday the Georgia National Guard and probably every police officer and firefighter available was out on the streets passing out food, water, and other supplies to motorists who had been stranded for going on 24 hours at that point. Two days after the dust has settled and temperatures have finally started to make it out of freezing, the interstates are still peppered with abandoned cars on either side and some people are only now able to get home. For many it was a nightmare that still hasn’t completely cleared.
Amid all the finger pointing and declarations of innocence among the politicians involved, I’ve found some very insightful articles that have tried to pinpoint how we got to this point to begin with.
For me, I felt lucky to not be in that mess, to have very narrowly avoided what was sure to be an all night commute home on treacherous roads. Somehow it didn’t help me much though. As the road outside of our home iced over and we no longer heard a single car pass by our house, it seemed to be the perfect setup to get some writing in. I wanted to write and knew that I ought to be taking advantage of the situation. Looking at the weather report, it would likely be a few snow days, but for some reason I just couldn’t.
It’s taken me days to realize that I felt guilty. As my co-workers and friends spoke about all the trouble and difficulties they had dealt with over the days after the snow and ice hit, I felt bad that I had somehow avoided the same fate. There wasn’t anything I could do of course, and learning to embrace that realization has made me feel better. That and seeing how others, who were able to help where I couldn’t, banded together.
This event won’t be forgotten. From kids who had to spend the night on freezing school buses, to children who had to bundle up in school gyms without heat, and to commuters who had 12+ hour long commutes home, you can bet that there will be push back. If there was ever a time to make an argument for reliable public transit in the city (that doesn’t rely on surface streets), this would be it. I just hope it isn’t too little too late.